How homemade noodles topped with garlic yogurt became comfort food for one northern Armenian city
by Kate Leahy
photos by John Lee
Tatar boraki doesn’t look like much—just diamond-shaped noodles served with butter and yogurt—but its story has deep roots in Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city and one of its oldest.
I visited Gyumri in 2018 while researching recipes for Lavash, a cookbook about Armenia, with my co-authors John Lee and Ara Zada. In the historic center, most of the cobblestone streets had been torn up as part of a restoration project, but the effect felt like walking into a post-war movie set on the edge of Europe. Gyumri is the definition of faded glory. Before an earthquake leveled swaths of the city in the 1980s, the northern city was the center of Armenia’s arts community. Bells from a church tolled, cutting through the quiet Sunday afternoon while we dodged puddles and walked past stately gray buildings with intricate doors. Our destination: Villa Kars, a hotel in one of the restored buildings. There, we met Armine Yeghiazaryan, a local cook who was going to show us how to make tatar boraki.
When the subject of noodles comes up, it’s common to debate its origins in Asia or summon the ghost of Marco Polo and try to trace his steps back to Italy. Not nearly as much attention is paid to the places in between: Central Asia and the Caucasus. Noodles are eaten here, too, most commonly with yogurt or butter (or both). In many parts of Armenia, women hang thin flour noodles on clotheslines out to dry, toasting them before boiling up a pot. But Gyumri is nearly the only place in Armenia where you find tatar boraki.
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