‘Lamadjo’, as it is known in Armenian, or ‘lahmacun’ in Turkish, is a thin circular piece of dough topped with minced meat or lamb, tomatoes, parsley and spices which is then baked, and is claimed as a national foodstuff by both countries.
The seemingly innocuous restaurant openings – reported in a Turkish newspaper earlier this month – have caused outrage in Turkey, leading to a spate of media coverage and even television shows explaining why the dish is Turkish and not Armenian, al-Monitor reported.
Relations between the neighbours are notoriously fragile thanks to Turkey’s continued denial of the historically accepted 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide – and diplomatic channels between the two do not officially exist.
It’s not the first time food has caused diplomatic tensions between Ankara and Yerevan, either: Turkey was outraged when ‘lavash’, a tortilla like flatbread, was described on Unesco’s List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity as “an expression of Armenian culture” in 2014.
The decision led to protests in Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, all of whom claimed it was a regional rather than an Armenian food. The issue is still on the menu at next month’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage, which will be hosted by Unesco in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Armenia is not the only country Turkey has been at odds with over food in the past. Culinary spats born of deep historical tensions – including wars and forced movement of people – have led to ‘trademark wars’ with both Cyprus and Greece over halloumi, olives and baklava too, al-Monitor says.