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Georgian Cuisine

“Georgians are distinctive, with a lovely face and proud of their beautiful country, as I am proud that I am from New York. I will be back to Georgia again”.
Georgian traditional cuisine is one of the various in the world and its popularity is increasing day by day. A lot of restaurants are opened in the different countries of the world. A lot of articles are written about Georgian cuisine and feast (“sufra”) tradition.
There is a significant difference between regional cuisines in the country. There are meat, wine, plenty of cereals and animal fat in east Georgia, while in the west the cuisine is distinguished with sauces with spicy chilly and nuts, chopped and minces vegetables and dairy products.

There is an abstract from Washington Post-regarding the Georgian cuisine:

“Where Europe meets Asia, the fertile soils and diverse climate of Georgia, a country the size of West Virginia, have sustained its people through countless incursions over the centuries. (“Romans, Greeks, Arabs, Mongols, Persians, Turks, Russians. . . .”) Although influenced to some degree by each of those cultures, Georgian cuisine has stood the test of time.

It relies heavily on such spices as ground coriander and a wild blue fenugreek, on homemade cheeses, on hand-formed breads — and on hospitality. In homes, the Georgian table is set with more dishes than guests can conceivably eat without lingering for hours — and that’s the point.

Ground walnuts find their way into nearly everything: salad dressings, soups (often as a thickener), meat dishes and dessert. Georgians use their version of “saffron,” which is actually ground marigold petals, as ubiquitously as the Spanish use theirs. And they turn the more than 500 varieties of native grapes into pudding, fruit leather and, of course, wine.

Georgia’s 8,000-year tradition of fermenting wine in clay pots called qvevri is thought to be the oldest continuously used method, but Americans are just discovering its fruits (including white wines left orange by fermenting with skins and stems). In January, Forbes listed Georgia’s offerings among nine wines and spirits to start drinking in 2015.

Many vegan dishes have roots in Georgia, where Orthodox Christians traditionally abstained from meat for several holidays and still do for the Lenten season leading up to Easter; this meant no khachapuri for Tsereteli and Brockett at Sunday’s feast. Georgian dishes include pork, chicken and goat meat, but many still skew vegetarian.”

There are a lot of dishes in Georgian cuisine which are very popular among gourmet, but among them there are favorite dishes.

It can be said that Khachapuri and Khinkali are the most popular dishes in Georgian cuisine.
Khachapuri can be met in high-class restaurant as well as in the fast food places. There are different legends about the origin of Khachapuri. According to one of the legends, a person with the name of Khacha baked Kachapuri in Svanetian and then it was spread in other parts of Georgia. But most presuasive legend about the name of Khachapuri, is connected to curd (khacho in Georgian) and bread (puri in Georgian). Curd with its consistence looks like cheese into pieces, which is put in Khachapuri dough. There is a supposition that Khachapuri, like Lobiani (bean filled bread) and Kubdari (meat filled bread) are related to the pagan religious concepts and symbolize the sun.
In the all parts of Georgia, where there is a tradition of Khachapuri, people bake it in different ways. They are different form each other with cooking technologies, shape and even with cheese types.
Imeretian Khachapuri can be concerned as the most popular type of Khachapuri, which is baked with yeast and fatty new cheese. It is baked on earthenware frying-pan (Ketsi in Georgian). Sometimes the surface of earthenware frying pan is covered with special leaves. There is no almost a difference between Mingrelian and Imeretian Khachapuri. It is different form Imeretian with that the surface of Mingrelian Khachapuri is spread with egg mixed with cheese and it is baked in the over in such way.

Adjarian Khachapuri is another type of Khachapuri. First of all, primarily it is distinguished with an original shape. Open boat-shaped bread filled with cheese and raw egg is added to it and is kept for 2-3 minutes before serving. As Adjarians claim, Khachapuri symbolizes the boat with its shape, while the egg – the sun. For Adjarian person Khachapuri is the whole ritual.

There has recently been spread a new original type of Georgian Khachapuri in Georgian restaurants – Khachapuri on a spit. It is very tasty and in addition, it has a different shape. The filling of it is Sulguni (type of cheese) and the dough spiraling around it is spread with battered egg before bakery. Even more interesting is Kachapuri baked with the same technology but with smoked Sulguni (cheese) inside.

Khinkali is not only a dish in Georgia, but it is related to the whole ritual. Some claim that Mongols brought it in Georgia, which were influenced by Chinese culture and therefore their culinary culture would not be an exception (but if we follow to assumptions, it should be remembered that Khinkali belong to mountainous culture of East Georgia. Traditionally, the enemy used to reach the mountainous Georgia the most lately and mostly the customs used to spread in the other parts of the country than in mountainous one).

Nowadays everywhere is cooked Khinkali in Georgia and every housewife claim that they cook it well. Criterias, how Khinkali is evaluated, is the juice, a moderate thickness of the dough and in terms of visually the number of wrinkles. The main thing is taste properties of minced meat, everyone has his/her particular view over this topic. Khinkali arrived from mountainous Georgia adopted to new herbs in other parts of Georgia. Most of housekeepers abused of this fact and they added a large amount of coriander, which leads the dish to different taste. In some regions of west Georgia Khinkali minced meat is added with dried coriander and spices (so called “utskhi suneli”). Although it is said that taste differs, but I would argue with the authors of this recipe – these spices fundamentally change the flavor of the dish, you cannot identify the taste of real Khinkali and you can compare it with the real one visually.

We can safely say that in modern Georgia the most popular type of Khinkali is cooked with mixed minced beef and pork. Mostly in the restaurants and Khinkali cafes Khinkali with herbs is called – Kalakuri (city-style) while without herb it is called – Mtiuluri. Meskhetian Khinkali is not a dominant at all, which is very disappointing. You can hardly find a place where a real good Khinkali is cooked – mostly Khinkali has a very thin dough and enormously thick stomach, which is impossible to boil. I have always wondered why there is so called ‘fashion” related to Khinkali and guessed that mass demand of it created different technologies of dough preparation.

Georgian feast traditions are under a strict order. Tamada – a toast-maker and toasts are a necessary element for any parts of Georgia. Georgian feast is also unimaginable without songs, dances and jokes. Toast order is depend on Tamada (toast-maker), but there are already some traditions, between these traditions is mentioned a difference. For example in Guria, the first toast is for peace, in Kakheti they bless the family. In east Georgia the last toast is for holy, Tusheti and Fshav-Khevsureti people pay to much attention to the toasts for ancestors and memories of dead people.