Dovga: My Favorite. Food. Ever.

January 26, 2010

in Recipes, Russian & Azerbaijani, Soups & Stews


We are getting into hardcore ethnic stuff here: this is a yogurt cream soup – it’s made of yogurt mixed with water, rice, and a bouquet (yes, nothing short of “bouquet”) of herbs. Back in the Old Country the selection of fresh greens was so vast, and so widely available all year round, that I normally used a melange of six different herbs to make this: spinach, sorrel, cilantro, dill, scallions, and garlic chives. This being Wisconsin, however, the fresh herbs, especially this time of the year, have to be trucked in from California, and the selection is… well… let’s just say that for all the things I am glad I left behind, the cornucopia of Azerbaijani farmer’s markets was a dear price to pay. Anyhow, I learned to make do (with nearly equally satisfying results) with the combination of cilantro, spinach, and scallions. And that’s just about OK.

Call it comfort food or whatever – this dish here is my absolute favorite – of all the delicious things on Earth (and I make quite a few of them), I can eat this for breakfast, lunch, and dinner whenever I have it in the house, during which time I won’t touch anything else. Literally.

Josie feels the same way. She’s my daughter, after all.

As much as the American palate is unaccustomed to yogurt soups (Or is it? Not in my experience), consider giving this a try – it’s creamy, herby, I don’t know… a perfect combination of flavors. At least if you are me.

You gotta start with 2 qts of yogurt. This here is my, false modesty aside, thick, delicious homemade yogurt.

Note: Homemade yogurt, especially when fresh, is not usually quite sour enough to produce the desirable tanginess in the soup – but the storebotten one usually is. That’s because it sat around longer and got more sour. Yogurt sours as it sits. This is why, if you use homemade yogurt, and don’t have any sorrel to sour things up further, you might never have a full dovga experience. Compensate by using lots of salt. I haven’t tried lemon juice – it seems out of place here.

See how wonderfully thick it is? Made from fresh milk right out of a cow (not my cow).

Now wash some cilantro…

…and chop it kinda medium.

Now take some scallions…

And chop them as well.

Now take some spinach…

and do the same thing.

Next, do the following:

1) Beat your yogurt with a fork until it’s smooth.

2) Add to it about 1 qt of water, and a beaten egg. The egg’s important here – it will act as emulsifier, making it harder for the yogurt and water mixture to separate (I learned that egg yolks have this function from my friend Jen’s husband Alex).

Now take about a cup of rice… this here is more than that, but you only need a cup.

…and add it to the yogurt-water-egg mixture.

Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Stir frequently. Very frequently. Back in the Old Country they made you stir it the whole time until it came to the boil to prevent it from separating, but just like with peeling potatoes, I am pretty sure that was invented to keep the fiery Azerbaijani women busy so they would stay out of trouble. An Azeri woman is a formidable creature, especially when crossed. I still think that’s why Jacob married me. He likes that sort of thing.

Once the mixture comes to a boil (by which I mean “once a few bubbles start breaking the surface here and there”), add all of your herbs. Salt to taste (no pepper). Stir, and turn the heat down to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 min (15 min from the time you put in your herbs, NOT the time it actually comes to a simmer after this addition). Once again, stir frequently.

Set your timer NOW.

There it is simmering.

And, fifteen minutes later, it’s done! The tangy, creamy, Middle Eastern goodness.

This can be served either hot or cold – Jacob prefers it hot, but I like it cold – I think it has more flavor that way.

Variations: Dovga can also be made with meat – this can be done by substituting the water in this recipe for beef broth, and adding some boiled beef (sirloin, stew,  soup bone trimmings, or whatever) along with the herbs. I’ve never made it that way, but if I wanted to, that’s what I would do.

It is also sometimes made with chick peas – just add 1 can of chick peas around the time you add your herbs.

For Rebecca: I know you want to add garlic. No one says you can’t, but be forewarned that most of the flavor is supposed to be derived from the delicate herb bouquet, and it will no longer be the same thing.

Dovga: An Azeri Yogurt-Cream Soup

  • 2 qt yogurt, beaten until smooth
  • 1 qt water or 1 qt beef froth for the meat version
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch scallions, chopped finely
  • 1 small bag of spinach, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch garlic chives, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped finely
  • 1 bunch sorrel, chopped finely

Note: you probably can’t easily find sorrel and garlic chives, but if you do, definitely use them! Or consider growing them next year just to this end. Dill is more readily available, but can be skipped as well. You can also play around with other herbs, but I would stay away from strong-tasting,  licorice-flavored ones like basil, mint, or tarragon.

  • 1 C rice
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can chick peas, optional
  • For meat version only: a small amount of cooked cubed beef

Place yogurt into a pot and beat with a fork or a whisk until smooth. Add water/broth, egg, and rice. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently (But not non-stop, all of you Azeri zealots). Add all the herbs and chickpeas (if using). If you are making a meat version, add your cooked beef at this time. Add salt. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 15 min. Serve hot or cold.

Another note: If the soup gets too thick the next day and begins to resemble rice pudding, just add some water and stir everything around. It won’t affect the flavor very much – just add extra salt.


1 kate January 26, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Sofya, can you do your homemade yogurt recipe? I have been hoping you would. I know I saw a great piece on making homemade yogurt in the New York Times once but I lost it and want to try to make some, even without St. Brigid’s Meadows milk.

2 Svetlana May 20, 2012 at 3:14 pm

I simplyfied the yogurt making process few years ago. It works like magic every time, without crockpots or burned pots. Never bought yogurt from the store again. I use the microwave! Home made organic yogurt, YAY. We all know how much does it cost to buy . Here in DC areas a quart costs about 7$. I buy a gallon of good organic milk about the same price and it lasts me for over 2 weeks. First time you want to use organic yougurt/ small one/makes 1 quart. Heat your milk in the microwave for 6-7 mins, is a microvave safe bowl/microwaves are different, you need temp that your finger can take when dipped in . Slightly warmer but not hot./ if a little to hot just leve in the microwave to cool slightly.Then wisk with the yogurt till smooth, poor back in the bowl or clean dry container , cover and stick it back in the microwave an leave it overnight. Next morning you have home made organic yogurt Voila! next time you can use a cup of your own yogurt to make next batch. I make 2 quarts at a time and use yogurt containers from previous store bought yogurt/ makes it easier.

3 Sofya January 26, 2010 at 6:26 pm

Place 2 qt in a 2 qt crockpot and heat on low for 2.5 – 3 hrs. Turn off and let cool until reaches 110-115 degrees. Right in that range. Take a cup or a cup and a half out and mix 2 T of yogurt into it. Mix well with a whisk and add back to the yogurt, again mix well with a whisk. Place the crock pot’s ceramic part with a lid on (take it out of the metal stand) into the oven (not turned-on) with the light on and leave overnight.

4 kate February 2, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Sofya, I made your yogurt, and it worked! I was thrilled.

5 Sofya February 2, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Oh that makes me happy.

6 Sofya February 2, 2010 at 9:04 pm

If someday some whey pools on top, just pour it off carefully.

7 Natasha Kravchuk February 9, 2010 at 6:31 pm

That soup looks very interesting and good. I’ll show this to my hubby; he’s our soup lover. I think we will give it a try.

8 Sofya February 9, 2010 at 6:57 pm

It’s got that herby-yogurty Middle Eastern flavor. Hope you like it.

9 Rasha February 21, 2010 at 10:30 pm

I will definitely try this recipe. My grandmother makes a number of yogurt soups, and they are always my favorite. Sorrel, yum, and not something I would have thought to put in a dairy-based soup, but it makes perfect lemony sense.

10 Sofya February 21, 2010 at 11:53 pm

It’s easy too. I think it’s so tasty. Something I grew up with I guess.

11 jeiranhasan August 1, 2010 at 11:01 am

I am an Azeri American who never quite liked certain foods including dovga but now that I’m in Baku and going back to the states soon, I’m excited to try this recipe. Thanks for the great instructions and instructional pictures… nush olsun :)

12 Sofya August 1, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Ah great! Were you born here?

13 jeiranhasan August 2, 2010 at 4:32 am

unfortunately not, but my dad is from there so I grew up with the food and culture

14 Sofya August 2, 2010 at 9:32 am

OK! What I meant is whether you were born in the US, since that was the impression I got. By “here” I meant the US since I am an American too.

15 Lynn October 3, 2010 at 4:56 pm

I love this recipe. I make a big pot of it and freeze some and we have it for lunches. So delicious and nutritious.

16 Sofya October 3, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Fantastic! Thanks so much for coming back and letting me know! And I am excited to know that it freezes well – I never tried, ours is gone too fast.

17 buna October 10, 2010 at 11:59 am

I taught an intensive English course in Baku a few years ago and for the first lunch my student ordered dowga! i almost cried! my family is Assyrian from Iran Azerbaijan and it tasted just like my grandmas dowga. We call it “booshala”.
I happen to be in the states for sad family business and will be in Milwaukee at my sisters for the month of December.
if u happen to be in Milwaukee maybe we could compare dowga. its my favorite food ever. i am with cousins in Berkley now, and we made a huge pot of bushala.
U gotta keep stirring with a wooden spoon for hours and NOT change directions cuzit will curdle.

18 Sofya October 10, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Well, Milwaukee is a very long way away from here.

I don’t find that you need to stir all the time in one direction, or both directions, because high-fat, creamy American yogurt does not curdle like the leaner one back home as easily. I just stir it from time to time.

19 Lana November 21, 2010 at 11:19 am

Dovga is one of the best soups on earth! I always add some flour for more creamy texture and I always stir non stop with wooden spoon

20 Sofya November 21, 2010 at 9:28 pm

My mom adds flour too! I just go heavy on rice, so I still get it thick, but it’s more rice-y then than maybe is customary. I never stir non-stop though – takes too much time! There are few occasions when it separates, but that was also the case every once in a while back in Azerbaijan when I used to stir it.

21 saida December 6, 2010 at 9:10 pm

i live on the east coast and it’s gotten cold outside in the last few weeks. temperatures are in the 30′s, which might not be so cold in wisconsin, but the fact remains that my hands had gotten frozen without gloves today.
i was sitting at work and thinking that i really want dogha… google made me come across your recipe…
so i came home and just made a delicious pot of dogha… it came out thicker than it’s supposed to, but still so yummy and warm!…
it makes me so happy!!! thank you, thank you for this recipe

22 Sofya December 6, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Glad it worked for you!! Mine is always thicker than normal, feel free to cut the rice next time. I guess I really like it sort of like a cream soup.

23 Josh January 20, 2011 at 6:13 am

Hey Sofya I just wanted to thank you for the great recipe. I was a peace corps volunteer in Zaqatala and I just finished in December. I wanted to give some of my friends a taste of the ‘baijan and Dovga was just the right thing. The family I was living with always put a little cinnamon in just before serving. Most Azeries look at me like im crazy when I say this but in the end they always love it! Just a thought.

sag ol ve nush olsun.

24 Sofya January 20, 2011 at 9:03 am

Hey, awesome idea! With cinnamon. I often add it to meat dishes and recently also to roast potatoes, it really works!

25 Masha February 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Love love LOVE dovga. I was a volunteer in Azerbaijan as well.

Problem: I feel like our store-bought yogurts are too thin for this soup. They just don’t compare with real qatiq. I know you make your own yogurt… but have you ever encountered this problem? Any thoughts?

26 Sofya February 3, 2011 at 5:08 pm

I found the opposite to be true – too thick (artificially) and too fatty. So I make my own, although the good brand I used to buy is Seven Star Farm. It’s organic & biodynamic and very pricey. Why don’t you try making ur own too? Then it will be just like gatig, I have a recipe here,

Keep in mind that folks in AZ add flour to their dovga (add 2 T while stirring yogurt and egg together before you add the rice)

27 Gabrielle May 6, 2011 at 10:50 pm

I’m so excited to try this recipe out. I love cream-based soups, and we just recently started making yogurt at home. I also just recently found out that I have celiac disease and cannot eat anything containing gluten, so it’s nice to find a relatively thick soup that doesn’t use flour.

28 Sofya May 7, 2011 at 8:31 am

Hope this works for you!

29 Bailey June 20, 2011 at 5:37 am

I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer in Balak?n, Azerbaijan and I just made some dov?a the other day! I even managed to find some dried mint in the bazaar-nan?li dov?a is my favorite. Thanks for the recipe, I’ll definitely be sharing it with people back home.

30 Sofya June 20, 2011 at 9:03 am

Bailey, if you are in Azerbaijan, that is, when I was in Azerbaijan, I’d increase my herbs to the following six (the Azeri names are in the parenthesis), 1 bunch of each:

garlic chives (KYAVYAR)
dill (SHUYUD)
cilantro (KECHNISH – NOT “DAG KECHNISH” – mountain cilantro, you might like it, but it tastes too strong to me)
sorrel (TURSHU)
spinach (ISPANAK?)
scallions (YASHIL SOGHAN).

Dried mint is not something I’ve ever put in my dovga, but use it in a soup named kelekosh, which, ironically, I never heard of in Az. and learned from another Azeri-US expat website. Here is the link:

Proportions: You might not realize this, but Azeri yogurt is a lot less fat than American, so where I would go 1 to 1 yogurt and water in US, I’d do 3 quarts of yogurt to 2 quarts of water, roughly, in Azerbaijan.

31 Bailey June 23, 2011 at 8:28 am

I put the other greens in too, minus the sorrel because I couldn’t find it, but up here they sometimes add mint in addition to everything else. Fresh is better, but they only have dried in the bazaar at the moment. Maybe it’s a northern thing, I don’t know-they tend to cook stuff a little different up here.

That’s great to know about the fat content! I thought it would have a lot more fat. I can usually only get whole milk here, so I just assumed the yogurt was fatty too. It makes me feel a lot less guilty about eating yogurt all summer!

My sitemate just made this same recipe-she loves it too! Thanks again.

32 Sofya June 23, 2011 at 11:30 am

Never feel bad about eating animal fat – it’s health food!

33 Marina September 4, 2011 at 7:52 pm

Slam, from Baku, now in NYC. We are not Azery but live in Baky all our lives before came to USA and love love Aserb. food and cook it often.. My husband is American but loves it too. His favorite are Piti and Harcho and anything with lamb and chick pea and most important he loves kindza.:-)
I was planing to do Dovga for so long and tomorrow I’m making it. I would add a little bet of fry mint. Is it strange that milk here does not get sour but bitter…:-(
Thanks Sofya for your so detailed recipe and photos that would help everyone to make and enjoy this delish soup.
Choh Sagol

34 Sofya September 4, 2011 at 7:59 pm

That sounds cool – how do you make kharcho and piti? I don’t actually know how to make either but would love to learn! The reason milk gets bitter is because of pasteurization – I think. I have very clear memories of some milk there being unpasteurized. But you can make yogurt with pasteurized milk.

35 Lisa May 7, 2012 at 3:41 am

I’m sitting here in Azerbaijan eating a bowl of dovga… and wondering how to make it myself when I’m no longer here:-)

It is my favorite!

36 Sofya May 7, 2012 at 7:22 am

Now you can.

37 Svetlana May 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Thank you Sofya, I just made your soup and i love it.
I come from the yogurt country Bulgaria, where the yogurt came from. We use yogurt in almost anything. I was happy to find a recipe so close to my food.
We have a soup that`s quite similar and so very popular throughout the country, U may like since you mentioned you like Dovga cold.
It is called Tarator.
Its simply yogurt, garlic, cucumber and dill soup.
very refreshing especially summer time. Although i make it year round.
you need :
1 qt plain yogurt/ homemade as you make your own/
1/2 qt water/ whisk with the yogurt/- can use more or less to thickness you like/
1 handful chopped dill
2 cloves garlic / mashed on a paste with some salt/
1 cucumber/ or half english, seedless I prefer/- diced finely ,seeds discarded
salt and sunflower oil to drizzle on top/ sunflower oil is important, will not do with olive or other strong flavored oil/
Chill well and enjoy
They say it the cure for bad hang over as well,back home :)

38 Sofya May 20, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Yes, a tarator recipe is already on my site. It is a little different from yours, but very similar. I spent 4 years at the American University in Blagoevgrad.

39 Amanda February 18, 2014 at 8:50 pm

Thank you for sharing this recipe! I’m working on a project to cook a meal from every country around the world and stumbled upon your blog while looking for recipes from Azerbaijan. We made this recipe for dovga last Sunday and loved it!

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