Which traditional foods to try in Georgia
27 May, 2016
Which traditional foods to try in Georgia
A foreign couple that enjoys traveling and runs its own website katherinebelarmino.com, offers list of most delicious traditional dishes to try in Georgia. “Food is a very important part of our travels, so we write about it – a lot. Sometimes food is even the reason we travel. For instance, we have a restaurant in San Diego called Pomegranate that serves Russian and Georgian cuisine. I was so taken by the Georgian dishes I tried, those alone made me decide
that I had to go visit the country that makes such delicious food. Georgian cuisine is different from any other I’ve experienced. There are so many traditional Georgian foods and dishes unique to Georgia, and you have to order them all while traveling through Georgia because odds are you aren’t going to be able to get them at home”, - The article reports.

"Khachapuri, Georgian cheese bread or cheese pie, is another staple of the Georgian diet. There are multiple versions of this tasty treat, as they are region specific, and we wish we had been able to try them all. But we did try as many as possible.

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Imeruli khachapuri is circular and has cheese on the inside.

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Acharuli khachapuri is shaped like a boat and filled with melted cheese, a raw egg, and a slab or two of butter. It’s served piping hot and you whisk the cheese, egg, and butter with a fork before ripping off the horns and edges and dipping them into the cheesy mixture.

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Georgian food starts with bread (Puri). Bread is an essential component of the meal. Georgian bread is special. Georgian bread is baked in traditional bread baking ovens called tones. Tones are made of clay and look like the top half of clay pots. A fire burns at the bottom which heats up the sides of the oven. The bread dough is sectioned off and slapped onto the side walls of the oven to bake, turning brown and bubbly.

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Nazuki is a very special Georgian bread that is not available everywhere. Nazuki is specific to the town of Surami, a small town in west Georgia. As soon as you approach Surami there are individual roadside bakeries lining both sides of the street. Nazuki is a fragrant clove, cinnamon, and raisin bread which is baked just like other Georgian breads, in a tone oven. Each baker hut has a stand outside displaying the bread, usually plastic versions, and a woman stands outside waiting for a customer to stop. We chose our stand and the woman brought us inside her little roadside bakery and gave us nazuki still warm from the oven.

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Chvishtari is a Georgian corn bread from the Svaneti region. Chvishtari is filled with cheese. We’ve decided the US should toss out the fried cheese sticks and serve the delectable chvishtari instead.

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Sulguni is a Georgian cheese. It is similar to mozzarella in texture. It’s salty and it is stringy, so you can unwrap it in sections. Sulguni can be ordered on its own as an appetizer. It is also used as an ingredient in Georgian dishes like khachapuri.

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Salad is a term used loosely to mean an appetizer. A standard salad offered at Georgian restaurants is made with cucumbers and tomatoes, kind of similar to Greek salad but without the feta cheese. These salads vary depending on the restaurant. Our favorite was the salad with walnut dressing. Walnuts are one of the staples of Georgia and the walnut dressing is thick and creamy.

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Another popular appetizer is badrijai nigvzit. Thin, long slices of eggplant (or aubergine) are cooked until brown and soft, then a paste of walnuts, vinegar, and spices is spread on the eggplant slices, which are then rolled.

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A pkhali board is a selection of different appetizers. Pkhali is another dish that translates as a salad, but is more of a small appetizer. Pkhali is a patty of minced greens and ground walnuts. Popular choices include spinach pkhali and beetroot pkhali. Pkhali boards also come with appetizers you can order on their own, like the badrijai nigvzit, but others, like the similar and most delicious red pepper stuffed with walnut paste, are not usually menu items that can be ordered alone.

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Khinkali are what you eat when you’re looking for a cheap, casual meal or a hangover cure.Khinkali are made with flour dumpling wrappers. They are folded in such a way that they have little dough handles at the top. To eat khinkali, hold the dumpling by the handle, flip it bottom side up, and take a small bite out of the dough just large enough to slurp the soup before devouring the rest of the dumpling. The handles aren’t meant to be eaten, though we were told that caused quite a problem during the Russian occupation as the Russians thought this was wasteful and prohibited the import of flour, which meant a lot of sad Georgians with no khinkali. While in China you enhance the flavor of soup dumplings with vinegar; in Georgia you douse them with a lot of black pepper. If your dumplings get cold because you are eating too slow or talking too much, you can ask the waiter to have them reheated and they won’t think less of you for it.

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Chikhirtma is a brothy chicken soup, but if it’s made right it is extremely flavorful. The secret is the vinegar, egg, and flour. The vinegar gives the soup a delightful tang and the egg and flour makes it a little bit thicker and heartier than your standard chicken soup.

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Georgian kebab (mtsvadi) and sour plum sauce (tkemali) are where Rome’s and my food tastes meet. He loves all meat, especially pork, and especially kebab. I’m just okay with it on its own, but add a delicious sauce, and I am on board! Plum sauce may sound like it’s going to be sweet, but Georgian plum sauce is sour. It comes in red, which is a little sweeter, or green, which is the more sour of the two. The green plum sauce is my favorite. It is delectably tart and is somewhat similar to chimichurri as it is herby as well. Apparently I’m not the only one who could eat all day just for the plum sauce. There is a Georgian saying that roughly translates to, 'the plum sauce was so good we ate the whole piglet.' If the kebab is served on a spit, the Georgian way is to slide it off using puri.

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Another common side dish is beans, called lobio, made with beans, onions, and herbs. Each recipe we tried was a little different. Some are thick and creamy (our favorite). Some are soupy. Lobio is usually served in a traditional small clay jar.

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Even though Georgia has a sea coast along with tons of rivers and lakes, seafood is not very common on Georgian menus. However, we did find trout on a couple menus. A popular Georgian seafood dish is trout with pomegranate sauce. The trout is fried whole, nice and crispy, and served with a sweet and savory pomegranate sauce.

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Matsoni, or Georgian yogurt, was my favorite breakfast item. Matsoni is a fermented dairy product that is served at room temperature. It’s nicely sour. It is thinner than Greek yogurt. It is served in the morning, but is also used as a marinade and in sauces. Note that if you are looking for matsoni in the morning, you’ll need to ask for it by name. If you ask for yogurt, you’ll be given packaged yogurt like Yoplait.

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If you watched The Amazing Race this season, then you’ve seen churchkhela. One of the challenges involved teams making churchkhela, a popular Georgian candy. Toasted nuts, walnuts in the east and hazelnuts in the west, are strung on a string and dipped into a flour, sugar, and grape juice mixture. The result is a reddish or brownish sausage-shaped candy with a pointy end.

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Lagidze water is a fizzy flavored soda which will make you feel like you traveled back in time to the 1950s, the time of soda fountains. However, Lagidze water was developed long before then. It was invented by the Georgian pharmacist Mitrofan Lagidze in the late 1800s. Lagidze came up with the idea to use natural syrups with soda and created unique flavors like cherry, tarragon, pear, and more. You can also order flavors like grape and chocolate", - The couple reports.

See full list at katherinebelarmino.com

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What to order at London's best Georgian restaurants

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