Monday, March 19, 2018

Georgian Cuisine

Exotic, Mysterious and Unique food from Georgia

All countries and nations have their favourite dishes, which have long stepped over the national boundaries and because of their virtues have suited everybody’s taste. Suffice it to recall Hungarian goulash, English beefsteak, Austrian schnitzel, Russian boef a la Stroganoff and others. But not everybody can boast of what one might call the national cuisine-a list of dishes differing in gustatory sensation and slightly similar in some qualities. People throughout the world know French cuisine notable first of all for its exquisite sauces; Russian cuisine known for appetizing fish dishes, pies and pancakes; Chinese cuisine differing from all others in using uncommon products and possessing quite a specific taste of its own.

Georgian cuisine uses well familiar products but due to varying proportions of its obligatory ingredients such as walnut, aromatic herbs, garlic, vinegar, red pepper, pomegranate grains, barberries and other spices combined with the traditional secrets of the chef ‘s art the common products do acquire a special taste and aroma, which make Georgian cuisine very popular and unique.

Georgian national cuisine is notable for an abundance of all possible kinds of meat, fish and vegetable hors d’oeuvres, various sorts of cheese, pickles and pungent seasonings, the only ones of their kind.

A guest invited to the Georgian table is first of all offered to eat the golden-brown khachapuri which is a thin pie filled with mildly salted cheese; then he is asked to try lobio (kidney bean) (ripened of fresh green beans) which nearly in every family is cooked according to its own recipes; stewed chicken in a garlic sauce; small river fish “tsotskhali” cooked when it is still still alive; sheat-fish in vinegar with finely chopped fennel; lori, a sort of ham; muzhuzhi, boiled and soaked in vinegar pig’s legs; cheese “sulguni” roasted in butter, pickled aubergines and green tomatoes which are filled with the walnut paste seasoned with vinegar, pomegranate grains and aromatic herbs; the vegetable dish “pkhali” made of finely chopped beet leaves or of spinach mixed with the walnut paste, pomegranate grains and various spices. In East Georgia you will be offered wheaten bread baked on the walls of “tone”, which is a large cylinder-like clay oven, resembling a jar, while in West Georgia you will be treated to hot maize scones (Mchadi) baked on clay frying-pans “ketsi”.

Lovers of soups will be delighted with the fiery rice and mutton soup “kharcho”, the tender chicken soup “chikhirtma” with eggs whipped in vinegar and the transparent light meat broth flavoured with garlic, parsley and fennel.

Even the most experienced gourmand will not be able to resist the savoury chizhi-pizhi, pieces of liver and spleen roasted in butter and whipped eggs; crisp chicken “tabaka” served with the pungent sourish sauce “satsivi”. The famous dishes include the melting-in-the-mouth sturgeon on a spit and sauce; the chicken sauce “chakhokhbili” in a hot tomato and dressing; the Kakhetian dish “chakapuli” made of young lamb in a slightly sourish juice of damson, herds and onion; roasted small sausages “kupati” stuffed with finely chopped pork, beef and mutton mixed with red pepper and barberries.

Everyone in Georgia is fond of “Khashi”, a broth cooked from beef entrails (legs, stomach, udder, pieces of head, bones) and lavishly seasoned with garlic. There exists quite a just opinion that “the onion soup in Paris and the khashi soup in Tbilisi serve the same purpose. They are eaten by the same people-by hard workers to make themselves stronger and by revelers to cure a hangover”. Remember E. Evtushenko’s lines: “Everyone who saws, transports, builds, sweeps the neighbouring streets, makes shoes, digs ditches eats khashi in the morning”.

Admirers of Khinkali-a sort of strongly peppered mutton dumplings, a favourite dish with the mountain dwellers of Georgia-keep growing in number. Like everywhere in the Caucasus, mcvadi (shashlik) is very popular in Georgia. Depending on a season, it is made of pork, mutton or spits aubergines stuffed with fat of tail and tomatoes.

The splendour of Georgia cuisine is backed up by famous white and red dry wines, among which anyone choose wine to one’s own taste: “Mukhuzani” with a pleasant bitter taste, golden cool “Tetra” light straw-coloured “Tsinandali” with a crystal sourish touch, dark amber-coloured slightly astrigent “Teliani”, rubycoloured “Ojaleshi” with a mildly sweet, emerald-like sparkling “Manavi”, garnet-red honey-tasting “Kindzmarauli”, and dark ruby-coloured velvety “Khvanchkara”, light-green “Gurjaani” dark golden fruity “Tibaani” and many others. If to Georgian wines you add best-brand cognacs, champagne, not to mention remarkable mineral waters and fruit drinks, you can fancy what pleasure Georgian cuisine will to you.

The Georgian table is conducted in a wise manner in accordance with the ancient ritual. The head of the table “tamada” is elected as proposed by the host. The tamada must be a man of humour with an ability for improvisation and a philosopher’s wisdom. If there are many guests at the table he appoints assistants who in Georgian are called “tolumbashis”. The tamada’s toasts follow one another in a strict never violated order. The guest is obliged to listen attentively to each toast and appreciate the beauty of style and the purpot of the worlds said. If is not allowed to interrupt the tamada when he is saying the toats. The tamada’s assistants and other guests may only add something to the toast or develop its ideas. If you wish to say a toast, you must by all means have the tamada’s consent or else you will find yourself in an awkward position. This table ritual does not put restraints on the guests but maintains discipline at the table. The feast proceeds among jokes and is accompanied by a dance competition, table songs and music, quotations and aphorisms from the works of poets and writers.

By About georgia.


Khachapuri – no visit to Georgia would be complete (or possible) without a few tastes of khachapuri, the warm, gooey cheese-stuffed bread that oozes and drips with heart-stopping goodness. In addition to the standard round pie stuffed with cheese, other variations include egg-topped (Adjarian khachapuri), the four-fold filo dough pocket, and tarragon, mushroom and rice-stuffed pies.

Khinkali – beautifully twisted knobs of dough, usually stuffed with meat and spices (served boiled or steamed). The trick: to eat without making a mess of yourself with the hot broth inside. Sprinkle with black pepper and grab the dumpling by the handle and turn upside down. Take small bites from the side, slurping broth as you go. The traditional khinkali includes meat, but vegetarian fillings of mushroom, and cheese/curd are sometimes available.

Puri (Tonis Puri) – the Georgian bread staple. Baked in a ceramic circular hearth oven with the dough stuck to the side (like Indian naan), puri comes out moist and sourdoughy, perfectly tainted with black bits from the oven. Its edges are browned and taste faintly of matzo. The best we found was in Borjomi, next to the bus station.

Badrijan Nigzit – roasted eggplant strips, served flat and topped with walnut paste. Sweet and savory, it’s one of Audrey’s favorites.

Pkhali – a paste made from spinach, walnuts, and garlic. Excellent with tonis puri or khachapuri. Another favorite.

Sulguni – as far as we could tell, *the* national cheese. A salted water-soaked cheese with a stringy shell and moist middle. Eat by itself or with a round of tonis puri bread and a plateful of herbs and tomatoes.

Matsoni – a rather sour yogurt that usually shows up topless (well, without a lid) at the table. Trial and error usually works to suit your taste – with warm meat, vegetables, khachapuri, or blend with fresh honey or fruit. After matsoni straight from the farm, store-bought yogurt will never taste the same. Made from boiled fresh milk and a bacterial starter, matsoni is certain to have medicinal qualities.

Lobio – a cross between bean soup and refried beans. Its consistency and taste varies widely, bears a resemblance to Mexican bean dishes and is almost always satisfying. Eat with mchadi (Georgian corn bread) for full effect.

Qababi (kebabs) – grilled minced meat sprinkled with sumac and onion slices, wrapped in a thin lavash-like bread. In some small towns, this was the only dish available. We were surprisingly never disappointed by it.

Mchadi – Georgian corn bread so dense you’d think it was a paperweight. Eaten with lobio.

Tkemali sauce – taken in small doses alongside cheese, khachapuri, or meat, this sour plum sauce is said to be a cleanser. Whenever we had a meal with a family, out came the canning jar of tkemali sauce.

Lobianikhachapuri-like bread stuffed with bean paste. Just slightly healthier than the original cheese khachapuri.

Tatara – confection made from boiled, pressed grape extract. Think fruit roll-up without the added sugar.

Churchkhela – brown rubbery truncheons made from strings of walnuts dipped in tatara and dried. Sometimes referred to as “Georgian Snickers.” Don’t eat the string!

Dolmas – steamed, roasted, or boiled vegetables or leaves stuffed with minced meat, herbs and rice. Though we don’t especially associate dolmas with Georgia, Rusiko’s rendition with fresh grape leaves from her garden was something special.

Chakapuli – herbed lamb stew from Kakheti, normally eaten at holidays (e.g., Easter)

Mtsvadi (Shashlik) – fire-roasted chunks of pork, salted. Cut some fresh onions and put in a metal bowl over a fire. Among some of the best barbecued meat we’ve ever had. Be careful, chunks of the prized chalahaji (or back meat) are usually in limited amounts and meant to be shared with the group. Audrey learned this after unknowingly taking the whole skewer for herself to shrieks of objection. She then shared.

Adjika – spicy Indian pickle-like paste. We were always served this with cucumber and tomato salad.

Kubdarikhachapuri-like dough stuffed with small chunks of meat, spices and onions. A Svanetian specialty. The place to get it is the restaurant/stop between Zugdidi and Mestia or at a home stay along the route from Mestia to Ushguli.

Chvishtari – cheese corn bread (a Svanetian version of mchadi with cheese)

Satsivi – poultry (chicken or turkey) served with a thinned paste of walnut, garlic and herbs. Considered a winter dish (“sivi” implies cold in Georgian) and eaten often around the Christmas holiday and the New Year, particularly in the region of Adjari. Though we’ve enjoyed this at Georgian restaurants abroad, we unfortunately didn’t have an authentic opportunity to try it this time around.