Geghard Gata – Sweet Armenian Tradition
In the rugged Upper Azat Valley in Armenia, around the entrance to the rock-carved Geghard Monastery (UNESCO World Heritage Site), you’ll notice elderly ladies, clustered around their roadside stalls, selling Gata – the beautiful round sweet bread.
Though the Gata styles will vary between the regions and villages in Armenia – the most famous version of Gata comes from the villages around Geghard Monastery, where the locals sell their will Gata decorated with tree-like motifs, diamond shapes, hearts, and the “Գեղարդ” (Geghard) word on it.
These glazed pastries have a crusty texture that’s soft once you bite into it, and they are stuffed with a sweet filling (khoriz) made from a fluffy mixture of flour, butter, and sugar, with a consistency of baked custard. The combination of the outside and filling together tastes a bit crumbly but moist and very tender.
While it’s unclear when the vendors started selling Gatas’ at the monastery site, the treats have been linked to Christian traditions for some time. They’re particularly prevalent during the Christian holiday of Candlemas. Armenian women knead their love and warmth for their family into the dough, so that each Gata bestows peace and success upon their household. In addition to love and flour, a coin is often hidden inside the bread. The person to get the coin will enjoy good luck all year!
Where to try the Geghard Gata? You should be able to try a generous piece of Gata, or buying the whole Gata at the entrances of the Geghard Monastery and the Garni Pagan Temple in the Kotayk Province of Armenia.
To learn more about Armenia’s food & drink, please visit our ARMENIAN CUISINE page
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