Pumpkin for Ghapama

Ghapama – Armenian festive dish!

November 24, 2015 - Travel to Armenia

Do you know that the most famous national dish in Armenia served during weddings, New Year and Christmas celebrations or other special occasions is Ghapama?

Ghapama is a stuffed pumpkin baked inside an oven or tonir (tandoor – Armenian special oven). The classical variant of making it is to bake it inside the tonir, but, nowadays people mostly use household oven in their apartments instead of tonir.

Tonir Armenian Oven
Photo by Anna Khachatryan

What is the main ingredient of Ghapama and how to prepare it?

So, to cook a ghapama you need to have a number of ingredients but first and foremost is the mature pumpkin. This is why ghapama mainly cooked either in October or November, when the pumpkins are already grown and harvested. The size of the pumpkin depends on the number of people ready to eat this delicious meal. However, when choosing a pumpkin for ghapama, remember it should fit in the oven.

Photo by Anna Khachatryan

Before going into the oven, the pumpkin is stuffed with rice, nuts or almonds with cinnamon, dried fruits like raisins, apricots, plums, prunes, and fresh apples or quince. At the end honey and butter is poured on top.

Actually, the ready-made meal is a sweet rice pilaf with dried fruits cooked inside a pumpkin. Rice pilaf is of high reputation in Armenia and among Armenians all over the world. For instance, it is necessarily served along with fish and eggs during Easter.

All the ingredients used in ghapama have some special meaning. For example, the pumpkin is a symbol of the Earth, rice symbolizes the people and the nuts and dried fruits are those people who have faith. When serving ghapama during a wedding people used to wish to the newly married couple to be as wealthy and bright as the fruit pilaf baked inside the pumpkin; have such a sweet, light and interesting life as the honey and the fragrance of cinnamon…

Pumpkins for Ghapama
Photo by Anna Khachatryan

Ghapama is considered to be a family dish. The pumpkin is cut into pieces and the family gathers together to have some portion of this wonderful meal.

As it was mainly served during the festivals, there is even a special song devoted to ghapama called «Հե՜յ, ջան, ղափամա» (“Hey, jan, ghapama” – translated from Eastern Armenian, as hey, dear Ghapama), which describes how to cook this delicious meal. The song tells how more than hundred people including relatives and friends gather together and wait for the daughters-in-law and sisters to bring this delicious meal for them to eat.

Photo by Anna Khachatryan

Actually, being an autumnal dish, ghapama ideally serves as a main course for US-Armenians during Thanksgiving Day as well. The variations of this dish are also available in the cuisines of some other nations.

So, what is your favourite Autumnal Armenian dish?

› tags: Armenia / food / tradition / travel to Armenia / vegan /