I’ve been planning to do a post on Georgian food for a long time. It’s a big selling point for the country. Russia is full of Georgian restaurants, and they’re popping up in the States. Cheesy, doughy, meaty, satisfying. Usually served in reasonable portions, but unending courses. It’s colorful and seasonal, with an emphasis on fresh produce in the summer and pickled everything in the winter.
I can’t possibly cover all aspects of Georgian cuisine here, so I’ll give you my all-star line up. The following dishes became my favorites over the past year, and I’m looking forward to finding a good Georgian restaurant in the tri-state area to satisfy my cravings. Any recommendations?
In my last post, I ranted about khachapuri. I love me some khachapuri, but I don’t need to write two posts about it. I will tease you with this, though:
This Georgian dumpling is a go-to hangover cure, the best meal after any sporting event, and dripping with super macho manliness. They’re typically filled with spiced beef and pork, and sometimes herbs and onions. I’ve heard tales of Georgian men eating 200 of them (for perspective, five is a long shot for me). On my first day in Georgia, I was taught how to eat khinkali: first, it must be attacked straight out of the kitchen, piping hot. Shake a bit of hot pepper on those bad boys and eat with your hands by holding onto the stem (forks and knives are for sissy foreigners). Be careful to sip the broth as you go, so as not to spill any. Discard the stem on your plate when you finish the dumpling, so you can tally your kills. Best enjoyed with a cold beer.
Also known as shashlik or shish kebabs. As a passionate carnivore, I quickly fell in love with homemade mtsvadi. It’s grilled pork, pure and simple. My dear friend Khvicha showed me how to make it one day in Kakheti. I love it best with a sweet, fruit-based dipping sauce, like pomegranate or plum (tkemali, see below).
Speaking of hangover cures, this one is my personal favorite. Chikhirtma is basically chicken soup served with a splash of vinegar. It’s consistency is thick but not creamy (the chicken broth is thickened with eggs), and the flavor is fresh, herby, and a bit tangy.
I never considered myself a big fan of mushrooms before I tried these baked mushrooms filled with sulguni cheese. This picture doesn’t do them justice. Imagine bubbling, gooey cheese nestled in fresh, fragrant mushrooms, sizzling in a clay dish. I must find a way to replicate.
This one’s a tongue twister. In English, they’re fried eggplant rolls filled with walnut paste. They’re a bit oily, but I could still eat a dozen of them. Spiced with garlic and coriander, textured with ground walnuts, and garnished with tart pomegranate seeds… I’m addicted.
This sauce is used on practically everything. It’s usually made in the summer when the plums are their freshest, either green or red. I prefer a sweeter sauce, but they’re often sour and garlicky. Tkemali is to Georgians what ketchup is to Americans.
Georgian snickers! Churchkhela is a great portable snack produced in Georgia for centuries. Eating one is as filling as eating a meal (which is why I’m afraid to ask how many calories they contain). They’re made by threading walnuts, hazelnuts, or almonds onto a string, and dipping them in fruit juice (usually grape) until they are thickly coated. They are hung to dry, and look a lot like old-fashioned candles. I like them soft and moist, others prefer them dry and chewy. To each his own churchkhela.
There are plenty of other Georgian dishes I could mention, but unfortunately I don’t have photographs of all of them. Every time I intended to take food shots, I either forgot my camera or devoured my food before thinking to take a picture. It’s that good.