Monday, October 22, 2012

Exploring Armenia 1: Yerevan - Nyam Nyam

As most of you probably know, I just returned from a 3 week trip to Armenia. It was my second visit to the country, and to date I have spent 1 1/2 months of my life there. It may seem like a trivial number considering my nearly 30 years on Earth, but I have done and seen so much during my time in Armenia that it seems like a lifetime. I am so grateful for the opportunity to travel to beautiful places around the world and have this wonderful outlet to share and inspire people to do the same.

My favorite statue in Armenia: Sasuntsi Davit

I have planned many blog posts describing the sights and flavors from my trip, and I hope that you are all ready for a whirlwind tour of Armenia on Mission: Food. I will share these posts in the coming weeks, occasionally alternating with recipes to keep things on an even keel. I'm starting out in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, and will later venture out to other regions I was lucky to explore during my time abroad.

Exterior of Nyam Nyam

Yerevan is 2794 years old, making it the oldest city in the world. It has a population of approximately 1.1 million people. Some of my favorite people in the world fall into that number. I wait with bated breath at every opportunity I get to see them, and my 3 weeks in Armenia were made even more special because I got to spend quality time with these amazing individuals.

One of the display cases at Nyam Nyam

A couple of my favorite people, Araik and Ovsanna Amiryan, own a casual eatery called Nyam Nyam housed beneath the Armenian Radio building. My family had the extreme privilege of dining at Nyam Nyam on half a dozen occasions during our visit. Ovsanna and her staff created mouthwatering dishes for us to try, and each visit to Nyam Nyam yielded new and exciting options. We sampled a variety of salads (from beet to eggplant skin--truly revolutionary), several forms of khachapuri (a Georgian "cheese bread"), piroshki (Russian fried buns) with a variety of fillings, lamajoon (Armenian pizza), and so much more!

Another display case, this one featuring mostly salads

Here are some highlights from our meals! FYI, everything is homemade from scratch! The cooks do a really amazing job.

Nyam Nyam Blit: baked buns stuffed with meat and cheese curds

Khachapuri: one with bread dough and one with puff pastry

An amazing salad made with dried and then re-hydrated  julienned eggplant skins, sour cream and walnuts

Pelmeni: boiled Russian dumplings filled with ground beef

Pelmeni topped with sour cream, butter and black pepper

Fresh housemade bread and a variety of salads including tomato and cucumber salad, beet and sour cream salad with walnuts, fried eggplant and veggie salad, and tzatziki

My favorites, hands down, were the beet salad and eggplant salad. Fantastic!!

Piroshkis: These were filled with mashed potato, but we also enjoyed meat-filled and cheese-filled piroshkis. Piroshkis with different fillings were different shapes (round, oval, etc) to differentiate.

A meat piroshki with my two favorite salads of the day, beet and fried eggplant

Inside a meat piroshki... perfectly seasoned ground beef (gheyma), sooooo delicious!

Inside a cheese piroshki... they use Lori cheese as the filling. It melts beautifully and has great flavor. The crust is super chewy too. Some of the best piroshkis I've ever had in my life were at Nyam Nyam!

Mashed potato piroshki... also perfectly seasoned filling!

Another day, another meal (clockwise from top): cucumber and tomato salad, greens and egg pancake, aveluk (wood sorrel) salad, pea and meat salad, tzatziki

Delicious fried mashed potato balls stuffed with cooked ground beef (gheyma). For the bread crumbs they toast lavash in the oven and then process it in a meat grinder to create large, very crunchy crumbs. Truly brilliant!

Inside the fried mashed potato and ground beef balls

Chicken Kiev with a twist: The meat is removed from bone (drumstick), tenderized, then filled with butter and pressed back around the then boiled bone (to cook the marrow and keep it from bleeding), battered, breaded (with 2 coats of lavash crumbs) and then deep fried. It yields the crunchiest crust ever. 

Clockwise from top: fresh bread, cucumber and tomato salad, chicken kebobs and French fries with ground red pepper, fried eggplant, veggie, and chicken dish topped with sesame seeds, rice pilaf with lentils, and a veggie and chicken sour cream-based salad

The manti that my grandmother taught Ovsanna to make! She did an excellent job! I was truly impressed (and enjoyed several servings)!

My grandmother also taught Ovsanna how to make this ishli kofte! She made them exactly the way my grandmother and mother do, and this is a very hard dish to master :)
I absolutely loved the food at Nyam Nyam, and I really enjoyed meeting the staff and even touring the kitchen. Out of a considerably small kitchen space, the quality and quantity of food created is very impressive. I hope you will all stop by Nyam Nyam if you're ever in Yerevan. It's definitely worth a trip, and the prices are very reasonable! You will keep going back for more, I promise :)

*Please note that as of 2014 Nyam Nyam is now closed :(*

Nyam Nyam
5 Alek Manukyan Street
Yerevan, 0025, Armenia
(374 10) 575117
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