Making Traditional Armenian Dolma Dish

Updated on January 21, 2023 by Meg
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The Delicious Traditional Armenian Dish of Dolma!

Every country has its classic dishes and in Armenia, one of the most beloved is dolma, a family of stuffed vegetable dishes, most often wrapped in grape or cabbage leaves. While in Armenia, my home was the Silk Road Hotel, where with almost every meal, I enjoyed dolma made by its chef, Raya Babinyan.

There are several countries that also claim to have invented dolma, but the Armenian people are sure that dolma (tolma in Armenian) is borrowed from the Urartian word “toil” which means grapevine. Urartu was an Iron Age kingdom centered on Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands.

The Dolma Festival, also known as Uduli, is a yearly celebration that takes place close to Armavir. It started in 2011 and is centered on promoting appreciation for Armenian food, particularly dolma, a national meal comprised of spiced minced beef, lamb, and vegetables wrapped in grape leaves, cabbage leaves, and other seasonal vegetables.

Chefs from Armenia and other nations compete to prepare many varieties of dolma, or stuffed vegetable dishes, during the event. Visitors to the festival can enjoy the dolma, Armenian dances, and music while the tournament is taking place. A jury selects the best chef at the festival's conclusion.

Interested in trying to make Armenian dolma yourself? This recipe is adapted from "Treasured Armenian Recipes" published by The Detroit Women’s Chapter of the Armenian General Benevolent Union

Simple Armenian Dolma Recipe

  • 1 lb of lamb, beef, or 50/50 mixture1/4 lb of washed rice
  • 2 medium onions, chopped fine
  • a handful of fresh parsley or mint
  • 1/4 cup of tomato sauce
  • Salt and pepper

Grape leaves

  1. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients, except the grape leaves, well by hand.
  2. If using fresh grape leaves, cut off the stems and blanch them in boiling water first.  But if you are using canned leaves, wash them in hot water.
  3. Next, prep your pot.  Place some grape leaves on the bottom of a medium to a large pot to prevent the dolma from sticking.
  4. Now the fun part.  Spread a leaf on a plate or cutting board, the wrong side up and stem end towards you.  Put a teaspoon of filling near the stem end.  With your hands fold the sides and then roll up like a cigar.
  5. Place the rolled dolma in the pot.  Layer the dolma in two or three layers.
  6. To ensure stability, place a plate over the top and fill the pot with 2 cups of water.  You can add more tomato sauce for extra flavor.
  7. Preheat oven to 325°F, and cook for 1.5 hours.
  8. Serve warm.

Enjoy!

Let me introduce you to Raya and dolma-making, accompanied by singer Anush Stepanyan singing a folk song specially dedicated to this beloved Armenian dish.

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