Lavaash by Saby: The Armenian cuisine in Bengal

A small restaurant in West Bengal is baking Armenian lavash in traditional tonirs. “This restaurant is my small effort to tell a story as beautiful and age-old as Armenia, rather than the history of Armenians in West Bengal,” chief Sabyasachi Gorai says, the India Today reports.

In the chef’s own words, the restaurant is the “fruit of his lost nostalgic past.”

“Lavash (the bread) is a word that has found a permanent spot in UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage list (incidentally the only food item to make it to that list from around the world). A word that goes so deep not just into the food history of the world, but also the culture that Armenia had to offer. Till date, we are baking lavash at Kashmir in traditional tonirs after so many centuries. This restaurant is my small effort to tell a story as beautiful and age-old as Armenia, rather the history of Armenians in West Bengal,” Saby says.

Saby grew up in Asansol, a small town steeped in Armenian influence, around the then-thriving bakeries, the churches and the graveyards, playing with the Armenian boys, under the tutelage of the elegant and well-spoken principal of AG Church School, Mrs Aedinnangze. Those memories came flooding back when Saby picked up a book written by his father Sakti Gorai, a scholar and researcher, called 100 years of Coal Mining History. The twin towns of Asansol and Durgapur, and neighbouring suburbs Kulty and Raniganj, came back to Saby, and with them the whiff of the many Armenian dishes. The idea of Lavaash germinated thus. The year was 2015, the centenary year of the Armenian genocide.

“While assimilating the Armenian story I have also taken influences of other foreign settlers in Bengal like the Portuguese and the French. My grandmom’s cook book from 1938 passed on to my mom and my mom’s hand-written recipe notes have also done their bit in finalising the Lavaash menu. Traditional Armenian food is not available anywhere and it took me a lot of research to get this right,” says Saby.

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