Lavash is a soft, thin flatbread of Armenian origin, popular in the Caucasus, Iran, and Turkey. Lavash is made with flour, water, and salt. The thickness of the bread varies depending on how thin it was rolled out. Toasted sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds are sometimes sprinkled on before baking. Traditionally the dough is rolled out flat and slapped against the hot walls of a clay oven. Armenian lavash has been prepared in the same way for thousands of years: Long sheets of dough are stretched and baked in a clay oven. Archaeologists in Armenia have uncovered ancient fire pits all strikingly similar to the tonir ovens that are still used to bake lavash.
According to the Encyclopedia International, “Common to all Armenians is their traditional unleavened bread, lav-ash, which is a staple in the Armenian diet.”
In 2014 Lavash has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Armenia’s Foreign Ministry announced that the “preparation, meaning and appearance of traditional bread as an expression of culture in Armenia” had been included in the list during the 9th Session of the intergovernmental committee of UNESCO’s Convention for the Protection of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Paris on November 26.
UNESCO describes Lavash as the following:
Lavash is a traditional thin bread that forms an integral part of Armenian cuisine. Its preparation is typically undertaken by a small group of women, and requires great effort, coordination, experience and special skills. A simple dough made of wheat flour and water is kneaded and formed into balls, which are then rolled into thin layers and stretched over a special oval cushion that is then slapped against the wall of a traditional conical clay oven. After thirty seconds to a minute, the baked bread is pulled from the oven wall. Lavash is commonly served rolled around local cheeses, greens or meats, and can be preserved for up to six months. It plays a ritual role in weddings, where it is placed on the shoulders of newlyweds to bring fertility and prosperity. The group work in baking lavash strengthens family, community and social ties. Young girls usually act as aides in the process, gradually becoming more involved as they gain experience. Men are also involved through the practices of making cushions and building ovens, and pass on their skills to students and apprentices as a necessary step in preserving the vitality and viability of lavash making.
According to folk etymology ‘Lavash’ derives its name from ‘Lav-hats’ (meaning good bread in Armenian). Experts however connect it with the Armenian lovaz ‘palm, flat of the hand’ and lavaz ‘very thin’, deriving from Proto-Armenian *law- ‘flat’.
There are similar breads made by Armenian neighbors, but Lavash is seen as distinctly Armenian. As H. Adjarian (1926) informs:
“Lavaš is considered to be Armenian bread in both Yerevan and Iran (being opposed with sangak for Turks and Persians), and in Tehran this bread is called nūn-i armanī ‘Armenian bread’. Similar data can be found also for other regions. In Dersim, for instance, lavaš is seen as characteristic for Armenian hospitality whereas the Kurdish entertain with sači hacʿ”
Learn more about and see its preparation bellow: