Caucasian Turkish Cuisine

This is a really great entry on “Istanbul Eats”, which is the best blog on eating in Istanbul for people who don’t speak Turkish. For Turkish speakers, they themselves recommend Harbi yiyorum, which covers many cities, not only Istanbul.

But even if you’re not in Istanbul and have no plans to go, perhaps you’ll find the names of the dishes in the article interesting.

The chef and amateur scholar Melike has done her research and can chat (if you want) about the traditional dumplings of Dagestan (called hıngal), […]

Our meal started with a cold soup called dovğa, made from yogurt, chickpeas, fresh dill and mint and served chilled for the summer with two ice cubes in the center.

Anyone from the Caucasus or further East will tell you tales of disappointment related to ordering “mantı” in Istanbul. In most of the world “mantı” means a big, glorious, meaty dumpling, and in Turkey it means a pathetic little dumpling abortion. Thus, most people assume that there are no proper dumplings in Turkey. 不是! Even in Turkey it is possible to get real dumplings, it is simply necessary to find some Caucasians to make them for you. The restaurant recommended in the entry linked above makes them like this:

But you can google the word “hıngal” yourself and find whatever mouth-watering picture you think ought to represent this dish. But where did this word come from? It’s clearly Caucasian, as it’s used in Kars and Dağıstan but not, for example, in Uzbekistan.

Well according to wikipedia, it is Georgian in origin, but more importantly their citation for the word’s etymology (sadly the only one I can find through google) indicates that it is from Avar (never sure if I can trust Starostin as a source, although he’s better than wikipedia, and he provides no corroborating source here…) which is a Northeast Caucasian language. “Mantı” itself is first attested in Mongolian, according to Nişanyan.

The second word, “dovğa”, is a little more interesting to me specifically because I can’t find any reference to its etymology online, but I have a good idea of where it comes from. “Dovğa” is (seemingly only in the Eastern Caucasus, as people from Kars don’t recognise this word) a yoğurt-based soup, and as everyone knows, “ayran” (a yoğurt-based drink) is known in Persian as “دوغ” (duq). More to the point, in Kurdish this same drink is known as “dew”. It’s not hard to imagine it was at one point “dowq” (following a similar process of phonological change as the one exhibited in “روز”, which the Kurdish form supports) in Persian, which would explain “dovğa” as being the Turkified form of this older Persian form, plus a vowel at the end to make the pronunciation more Turk-friendly. This seems more likely than the idea that the word was borrowed directly from Persian as “دوغا” because the dish is regarded by Iranians as “Azerbaijani”.