Georgian Cuisine All-Star Team

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?

Khachapuri

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:

Khachapuri frenzy!

Khinkali

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.

DSC_0278 DSC_0277Mtsvadi

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).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chikhirtma

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.

Adding vinegar to my chikhirtma. Mmm.

Adding vinegar to my chikhirtma. Mmm.

Soko

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.

Soko

Badrijani Nigvzit

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.

Georgian eggplant rolls

Tkemali

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.

Tkemali

Churchkhela

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.

Churchkhela P1130059

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.

40 comments

    • Bespoke Traveler, I might not be the best person to answer this question because I’m not a very educated foodie! Georgian cuisine just has it’s own set of traditional dishes. There is influence from surrounding cuisines: Persian, Armenian, Turkish, Azeri. These cultures have been interacting for so many thousands of years, I imagine it’s hard to dissect the origins of some dishes.

      In terms of similarities with Russian food, you do see the use of pastries with cheese/meat in both places, and different types of dumplings. But Georgia has a different range of produce, herbs, and spices available. Even the way food is served is very different. In Georgia, the table is covered with dozens of different dishes, rather than serving each person their own plate.

      Sorry I’m not more knowledgeable! Check out this website for more info on Georgian cuisine:
      http://georgianrecipes.net/

  1. To the best of my knowledge, South Africa doesn’t have any Georgian restaurants – but I’m under correction. I think one week of Georgian food would have me the size of a house! .

    • Haha Alison, my waist did suffer from all of this delicious Georgian food! Just too much cheese and bread for me to handle (at least while in an office job!). But if you can find one there in South Africa, do let me know. I’m curious what you’ll think of it. 🙂

    • The ingredients are very simple but the flavor is intense! I highly recommend giving it a shot, if you have any Georgian (or even Russian) restaurants in your area. If not, you can always try to make some at home. Thanks Laura!

  2. I’ve never tried Georgian food, and I’m not sure if there’s a Georgian restaurant in the DC area. I’ll have to check on that! Cheesy, doughy, hearty food is just what I need to get through the rest of this winter weather that is invading my spring! Beautiful pictures, thank you for sharing.

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