Here’s what Armenian khash soup is: beef heel boiled in water overnight until the keratin and fat has softened to a gelatinous glop. Here’s what also goes in it: nothing, except sometimes pieces of cow’s stomach. Here’s when it’s eaten: breakfast.
The idea of khash didn’t bother me, actually. The soup itself… did. I’m pretty brave about food. Today, I was really brave. Khash is infamously hard to eat – one guidebook even recommended travelers avoid it.
Khash is very popular in Armenia, and beef feet are in high demand. In Yerevan, we saw a whole sidewalk full of hoof vendors.
The soup isn’t seasoned at all – not even salted – which is the first problem. Most of the actual hoof meat is taken off before boiling, which is another curious thing. It’s served with bread, salt and a little dish of raw garlic. The waitress suggested I break pieces of stale lavash into the broth.
The thing is, the experience wouldn’t have been nearly as odious if there had been some other flavors in the broth – an herb, some carrots, any spice. Instead, it tasted only of musty, watery cow. The other thing is, the broth itself was bad but not inedible. Even the bits of stomach weren’t bad (I don’t mind stomach, it can be pretty good), just flavorless.
No, the part that was difficult was the melted heel itself, which had turned into the consistency of stringy, chunky snot. By the end of the bowl I was somewhat accustomed to it, but the first bite… well, I was very, very brave today.
The waitress brought a shot of oghee, a homemade liquor, to chase the khash down. She seemed proud of me when I finished the bowl. Rebecca looked sick to her stomach.
I don’t like disparaging other cultures, and khash probably tastes fine when you’re used to it, but this is an Armenian experience to skip.