I have concluded that one common thread runs across citizens of every country on this planet. They all claim that their cuisine is the best!
And Georgia is no exception to that.
As a vegetarian, I wasn’t expecting much. Though I must admit that the food (along with everything else Georgian) won me over. Stereotypes at work again. Like I assumed a Germany that served only sausages and potatoes, I imagined a Georgia with Russian styled meat soups and vodka. But I couldn’t have been farther from the truth. For a start, Georgians are proud of their chacha – the vodka-equivalent which they proudly gulp at one go. We tried it once and even the husb’s face changed into a zillion expressions in a matter of 3 seconds. So you can imagine how potent that was!
But this is a post about food and unsurprisingly I have liquefied it. Let’s get back on track.
Georgian cuisine, the way I see it, is a wonderful mélange of food from Europe and Asia with Russian influence. The best way to introduce it is through a Khachapuri. The analogy to this is our very own paratha or naan. So this is a bread, the shape and type of which varies depending on the region it is from. The distinct and the must-definitely-try is the Adjarian or Adjaruli Khachapuri. To me, it looks like a ‘yellow eye’ but is more famously known as a love-boat because of its shape; this bread oozes loads and loads of gorgeousness (read calories) with the amount of butter used as well as a raw egg in the centre! If you ever get around to finishing one, you will realise why I emphasised so much about the importance of walking in this country.
Oh, by the way, I did turn a meat-eater for one meal. The story goes thus: I was told that vegetarian Khinkalis were available (analogy: dumpling/momo). So I happily ordered for some mushroom khinkalis and attempted eating it the georgian way which is to suck out the broth and only after, bite into the whole thing. A couple of days later, over a meal with a Georgian cabbie, I was informed (mockingly, of course) that that there is nothing such as a vegetarian khinkali and the mushrooms were likely to have been cooked in meat broth. Why, thank you very much. End of story.
One very essential and delectable ingredient in georgian cuisine is walnuts. Satsivi or walnut sauce (I find no analogy to this!) is essentially a paste and when smeared on fried slices of eggplant and consumed, can give you a momentary glimpse of heaven.
The other important ingredient is Lobio or Red kidney beans. Cooking this in two popular ways can produce a Lobiani (analogy: rajma paratha) and clay pot-cooked Lobio (rajma dal!). On a day that both of us had an enormous rice craving (georgian food is predominantly bread-based) we found a place that served it and mixed it with steaming hot lobio. Yum!
And then there is Tkemali or plum sauce – I loved the tartness and managed to bring back a small bottle of it!
Of course, there is a lot more of Georgian food since i covered only a minuscule vegetarian portion of it. I only know that the Chakhokhbili that the husb had, chicken-and-boiled egg-in-tomato gravy, looked delicious and apparently tasted great too.
Noteworthy among the desserts is Churchkhela – what I thought looked a bit bizarre and assumed to be some type of kebab. It was well toward the end of our trip that I (fortunately) asked a shopkeeper who told me that they were nuts, mainly walnuts, threaded onto a string and dipped into thickened flour and grape juice and finally dried to give a sausage-like appearance (analogy: halwa?). I bought two made of white and red grapes and while I dint fancy the former, loved the latter!
For more on the cuisine, visit this site I came across.
Recommendation (in Tbilisi):
- Machakhela (one of the few places that’s open 24/7 and a great place to pass time)
- Cafe Kala (I thought the place was pricey but nice ambience and has a few more veggie options than the rest)
- Carrefour – to buy local sauces, yoghurts and chocolates!
- Not sure about other areas but Kote Abkhazi street had tons of shops selling churchkhela