Zhingalov khats, a flatbread with a variety of fresh herbs, is a specialty from Nagorno-Karabakh (literally, it means bread with herbs in Armenian). If you ever visit the market in Stepanakert, you can taste the real deal made fresh in front of you. Unfortunately, that might be your only chance to do so: at the time of writing, my Internet and cookbook searches didn’t return a single recipe for zhingalov khats! To further complicate the matter, the name of the dish is transliterated in different ways, such as zhengyalov hac or jingalov hats.
The flatbread is supposedly made with 7 fresh herbs (some other sources online said 8, 9, or 27), one or two of which are obligatory (which ones, we don’t know). The dough is rolled out, chopped herbs are placed on top, the sides are folded over and the whole thing is rolled out again before being cooked on a griddle. This link gathers most of the information one can find on zhingalov khats, including a rather funny video of a TV show broadcast on the Russian First TV channel. There are also some rare photographs from markets in Karabakh here, here, and here.
But finally, my dear Caucasian foodies, the wait is over. I am proud to offer you what I would modestly call the first ever written recipe for zhingalov khats, an undeniable cornerstone in the little-known culinary heritage of Nagorno-Karabakh! It may not contain 27 or even 7 herbs, but it’s pretty good all the same. In fact, the tighter flavor profile will even help one recognize what’s in it, which is a big plus in my opinion. It also doesn’t follow the absurd diet restrictions that go with fasting for lent, and this makes it even tastier. Butter makes everything tastier, and nobody should tell you when to eat it and when not to.
The dough is identical to a lavash dough, the main difference being that it needs to be cooked longer. You can enjoy your zhingalov khats as a hot snack with a little bit of butter, or serve them with kebabs.
And don’t miss this fabulous song dedicated to Zhingalov Khats:
Yields 4 flatbreads
6 oz water, lukewarm
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/4 tsp active dry yeast
10 oz flour, sifted
1/2 tsp salt
- In a cup, mix the water with the honey and yeast, and let rest for 10 minutes.
- Transfer to the bowl of an electric mixer fit with the paddle attachment, add about 3/4 of the flour, and mix on low speed for 1 minute. Add the rest of the flour and the salt, switch to the dough hook attachment, and knead for 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, for about 3 hours.
- Punch down the dough and let rest for another 10 minutes.
Yields 4 flatbreads
2 1/2 oz thinly sliced leeks
2 1/2 oz thinly sliced scallions (white and green parts)
2 oz butter
3/4 oz finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
- In a small saucepan, cook the leeks and scallions in butter over medium heat until soft. Remove from the heat, let cool, then mix in the parsley.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, and roll into 10″ x 12″ ovals using a rolling pin. Don’t forget to flour your work surface generously as you go, giving quarter turns to your dough between each roll.
- Spread the leek, scallion and parsley mixture evenly over the breads, fold over the sides, and roll out again to the same size, adding flour as necessary.
- Turn a wok upside down on a gas burner, and heat on the highest setting for a few minutes. Rub the wok with a paper towel soaked with olive oil, and place a flatbread on the wok. Flip several times, about every minute, until cooked through and nicely browned.
- Remove from heat and eat immediately. If you have to wait, cover with a towel, and spray with a bit of water before reheating.