Georgian food is one of many mysteries that will await any visitor daring travel to this small Caucasian country. There is nothing too fancy about it, no loads of spices and enticing looks, but it does not mean it lacks personality. Relying on local products, it is firmly rooted in its territory as much as it is hearty, without tricks but natural and authentic. Georgia being at the crossroads between Europe and the Middle East, its cuisine also takes influences from its neighbours while adding local flavours and ingredients. In a country where most people home grow their own fruits, pomegranates and grapes first, where you’ll be offered homemade wine and cheese in virtually any house, it is a cuisine that is as welcoming as the people who share it.
what’s more Georgian than some freshly baked bread filled with local cheese and sold at every corner of every city? Each region seems to have its local recipe, making for an interesting discovery throughout any journey in the country. The circular Imeretian recipe might be considered as the signature khachapuri, although the Adjarian one, filled as it is with sour Sulguni cheese and topped with an egg, gets all the praise. Other types of khachapuri may be filled with chakhokhbili, stewed chicken with fresh herbs, or even beans, so feel free to try as many as you can. Many bakeries will sell their own recipe but you’ll also find khachapuri at every fast food joint, making it the perfect dish to try for an authentic street food experience at a very low price.
these local dumplings filled with meat like beef or lamb, and sometimes with mushrooms and potatoes, are a treat you cannot miss. Try and eat them the Georgian way not to attract too many funny looks though. The key is to lightly bite into your dumpling to suck the juice out and then hold your khinkali by the little crown on top of it to eat the rest, although you’re not expected to eat said crown. Khinkali are served steaming hot and are usually shared so that you can’t really order them one by one. You will find other types of dumplings on some restaurant menus like piroshky, little steamy dumplings often blended with cheese. Just know that you cannot go wrong if you order any of the above.
a popular family meal, ojakhuri is made of a perfect combination of pork meat, fried potatoes and onions. Simple enough to make it easy to prepare, it can be complemented with garlic, mushrooms or even bacon. However, the secret to a great ojakhuri lies in waiting as it is the marinated meat that makes all the difference. As expected in Georgia, white wine is instrumental to the marinade but also quite a few spices, including coriander, bay leaves and pepper. The result is bursting with flavour and best enjoyed piping hot, served in a traditional clay dish known as a ketsi.
there is no way to describe churchkhela that gives it justice. The first time you’ll see these strangely shaped sweets, you will probably be at a loss for words too and perhaps be hesitant to give it a taste. Yet, these candle-shaped sweets are packed with flavour. But what are they exactly? Strings of nuts or walnuts dipped in fruit juice, grape or pomegranate mostly, and dried in the sun. The tradition of churchkhela making is so distinctive that it was inscribed in the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Georgia back in 2015. Many local producers will sell their homemade products on markets while others will take them to the streets. In any case, you’ll probably find someone selling churchkhela at every touristy place you go.
5. ALL THINGS WALNUTS
Walnuts are one of the staples of the Georgian cuisine and they sure are much more flavoursome than the ones you’ll find at home. For that reason, Georgians decided to mix them with everything and anything. You want to order a dish of eggplants? Add some satsivi, a sauce made of walnuts and spices on top of it to take it to the next level. You’re not really into spinach? Crush some walnuts and herbs into it and you’ll get some traditional phkali. Be careful to what you order if you have an allergy to nuts but if walnuts are your thing, know that Georgia is the place to be.