The best possible way to introduce Georgian cuisine would be through its most popular dish – khachapuri. Or Khinkali. Or both.
While not intending it to be so, I went on Georgia’s culinary trail only to realize that every single dish was a unique combination of Europe and Asia with a lot of Russian influence, but that said, Georgian food does hold out on its own – from its wines to its dumplings (Khinkali) to the more advanced kebabs, ostri and kharcho, every dish upholds the culinary traditional of this unique country.
Here are a few dishes that I absolutely loved digging in to.
Khachapuri: This flatbread varies from region to region, and so does the stuffing. Cheese is the primary “filling” of course. You are never really far from a place selling khachapuri, particularly around breakfast time, and because its quite filling, make sure you grab one before you start your exploration of Georgia.
Adjarian Khachapuri: My personal favourite. This boat shaped “pie” or Khachapuri is filled with cheese and butter and topped with a raw egg just before being served. Best eaten hot!
Khinkali: Call it whatever you like, momo or dumpling or plain khinkali, you are never going to be disappointed with this meal. In fact, eating a khinkali is almost a sacred act – and it is advised that you learn the right way of eating one, if you do not wish to raise eyebrows!
Khinkali is eaten thus – first sprinkle black pepper on the khinkali, then hold the stem and the bottom, take a small bite off the centre portion, suck out the juices sloshingabout inside and then eat the rest of it. Make sure that you do NOT eat the “stem” of the khinkali either. If you happen to be traveling around Georgia, your khinkali’s may vary in size, filling and level of spice. If you happen to be in Kutaisi, head to El Debo (by the White Bridge) for the best ones in all of Georgia!
Kharcho: A traditional beef (or chicken) soup with walnuts and rice thrown in. Good enough as a meal too. The taste varies according to the region, going from a mild hot to some serious hot! I had all kinds – same with Khinkali.
Lobio: Essentially a dish made of bean (kidney) with coriander, walnut, garlic and onions served in a clay pot for that extra effort. If you are a vegetarian, this is something that will keep you going in Georgia.
Ojakhuri: If you like pork then this one is a must try. It is considered to be a “family meal” – the portions are usually quite large (all Georgian dishes are). I particularly like the fried potatoes! Add a dash of pepper and you are good to go!
I say again – you cannot go wrong with food in Georgia. If not the meats, vegetables, fruits and wines will keep you going. You might notice that majority of the locals are “plump” if not outright “fat” – but they would laugh it off as a “wine belly.” Smoking is quite common for both men and women, as is drinking – in general they are a very easy going lot!
Food portions are generally big enough for two or even three people – so order with care.