Ghapama, or stuffed pumpkin, is among the traditional Armenian dishes. A raw pumpkin is hollowed out and then filled with a mixture of cooked rice, dried fruits (raisins, apricots or plums), nuts, and honey. After filling, the pumpkin is baked until it softens and the flavors meld together.
Once baked, the hot pumpkin is brought whole to the table. The “cap” is removed, releasing aromatic steam and the pumpkin is sliced from top to bottom in several places, allowing it to open up and reveal the fragrant mixture inside.
I had the opportunity to taste a version of the dish called “Ghapama from Erzrum”. Erzrum (Erzurum) is a city in eastern Turkey, relatively close to the Armenian border. In the past, it was part of Armenia. This variant significantly differs from the classic version. The main filling consists of beef, carrots and beans, complemented by eggplant, onions, garlic and other vegetables. The result is a savory dish (the classic ghapama is sweet).
I tasted the Ghapama from Erzrum at the Lavash restaurant in Yerevan, priced at 3,800 AMD, approximately 9.20 EUR. The portion was huge, suitable for at least two or three people. The filling was excellently seasoned, and its combination with the sweet pumpkin was perfect. Beef tenderloin was used as the meat.
Ghapama is often associated with celebrations, especially during the Christmas season. The preparation and serving of ghapama have an almost theatrical character due to the slicing just before serving. There’s even a popular Armenian song dedicated to it, celebrating the joy of communal dining and gathering:
If you’re unfamiliar with ghapama, be sure to try it when visiting Armenia, preferably with someone close.
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