Khash: The Hangover Cure of the Caucasus
Care for some cow foot soup? Khash is a popular Caucasian stew, often eaten early in the morning or as a hangover cure. It might not look very appetizing but it's great with company and vodka, especially in the cold season.
Khash (or khashi) is written խաշ in Armenia, xaş in Azerbaijan and ხაში in Georgia, but both the sound and the substance of this unusual soup are almost the same across the region’s cultural and political boundaries.
Largely unspiced, khash is made by a laboriously long boiling process using many of the body parts of sheep or cows that outsiders would rather not see near a dining table. Most notably, trotters and knuckles. As British historian Peter Turner called it in a celebratory article, it’s the simple, earthy, unadulterated flavours that make khash “a joyous outlier in [the Caucasus’] otherwise elegant culinary tradition,” a dish that “makes no concession to visual beauty.”
Add a sheep’s head to the overnight cauldron, and you get the similarly flavoured dish known from Turkey via Iran to Afghanistan as kelle pache, in Azerbaijan as kəllə-paça.
Raw garlic and vinegar are added to taste at the time of eating. What varies slightly from country to country are the accompanying flatbreads and (often raw) vegetables that accompany the soup. Very commonly, khash is served as an anti-hangover breakfast accompanied by plentiful shots of vodka. As such, it has long been seen as a male preserve, though in recent years, the sight of women partaking has become less startling.