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What Is a Lavash?

By V. Cassiopia
Updated May 16, 2024
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Lavash is a type of flatbread — most likely originating in Armenia — that is one of the main features of Middle Eastern and Armenian cuisine. This thin, unleavened bread is prepared using simple combinations of traditional ingredients; however, it can be embellished by adding spices or other edibles, such as seeds. The flatbread is widely consumed throughout the Middle East, along with similar breads, such as sangak, taftan, matnakash, and barbari bread.

Middle Eastern cuisine often includes lavash, either in the soft form when it is freshly made, or as a cracker bread when it has dried out and become hardened. The fresh flatbread is popularly made into sandwich wraps with yogurt and greens; it is also eaten with kababs, usually made of portions of grilled lamb or chicken. When eaten fresh, this bread can also be cut or torn into small sections as an appetizer by folding goat cheese together with onions and greens, such as parsley.

Lavash is made by combining flour, water, and salt, but no yeast. The thickness of the bread can vary depending on how thinly it is rolled out into a flat square of oblong shape. Spices, such as fennel, pepper, cumin, or even paprika or curry can be added to the basic recipe to add flavor. Seeds, such as sesame, caraway, or poppy seeds, can also be added to vary the taste.

This flatbread is one of the most commonly consumed types of bread in the Caucasus region of Russia and the Armenian diaspora, including such countries as Iran, Azerbaijan, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey. Other types of bread that are common to these regions include sangak, taftan, matnakash and barbari bread. All of these other breads, however, are leavened — made with the addition of yeast to raise the dough.

Sangak, made of wheat or sourdough and baked in a clay oven, is shaped simiarly to lavash, and is a very popular bread in Iran. Taftan is also a leavened bread made with yeast and rice flour; shirmal is a flatbread similar to taftan, and it is a sweeter bread to which fruits have been added. Matnakash is a traditional Armenian bread, made with yeast or sourdough and shaped into small loaves which become a golden color after being coated with sweetened tea while baking. Barbari bread is a traditional Persian favorite in oblong shapes, leavened and baked in clay ovens.

The word "lavash" is said to have various derivations, depending on the dictionary or language specialist consulted. For example, Turkish-Armenian sources say it comes from the word lavuk, or "bucket," while the American Heritage dictionary simply attributes lavash as being of Armenian origin. Furthermore, the Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia describes "lavash" as being Armenian and having two parts: lav, meaning "good," and ash, meaning "food" or "meal."

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