Georgian cuisine is the topic of this blog. I seldom write about food. People wonder, what do I eat? It has been hard going as I don’t eat meat, the last countries main staple, I tend to just eat snacks.
Of course I have breakfast which is often included with the room. Since arriving in Georgia, I have indulged in the delicious fruits. Cherries , apricots and wonderful juice peaches are in season. It is grown organically, fresh from the trees, juicy, tasty and so easy to just buy a kilo of cherries for a dollar, or two! Bananas are expensive, well, fifty cents each, I have not been able to find out if they are imported or Georgian grown. So I often buy fruit, for lunch, a snack or to take with me on the bus. However, here in Georgia I have decided to try the national cuisine so I can write about it.
Here in Mestia in the main square is my favourite restaurant, serving traditional Svaneti dishes. Last night I had the dish,Lobito “kotanshi” made with kidney beans and different spices. Served with a slice of hot, corn bread. It was served in a gorgeous terracotta container and absolutely delicious. Needless to say that the beans kept me warm all night. For as we all know ” Beans means F***s”!
When I was having lunch in Batumi, with my friend Ozkan from Turkey, I ordered a Khachapuri Archaruli. This is a boat shaped dish, overflowing with melted cheese and topped with butter and a runny egg. Now I have a thing about runny yoke. Goes right back to my childhood, I can NOT eat that! However, due to the dish being so incredibly hot, the yoke actually cooks while you are eating! You break the delicious bread from the side and scoop up the cheese with it. As the egg cooks and mixes with the cheese, it has a taste I never before experienced! Delicious!
Khachapuri Imeruli are round flat pies with only melted cheese inside. These are my favourite on the run food. They are about fifty cents, very, very filling, and easy to walk around with while eating.
There is the Khachapuri Megruli, Khachapuri Penovani and the Khachapuri Achma. Every city has a slight variation, but all have melted cheeses inside, are fabulous, and my favourite food so far.
The second most common dish is Khinkali, a spicy dumplings, filled with cheese, potatoes or mince meat. I made the mistake in Chakvi of ordering two, one cheese and one potato filled khinkali. I received four! I was so full unbelievable! You are meant to eat them with your hands, but they are so incredibly hot that that is near impossible to do. I loved the cheese filled one. The potato/ mushroom one is also very delicious.
This is why I don’t write about food, what other word can I use for delicious?? Must look in my thesaurus! Today, here in Mestia, I had mashed potatoes and cheese,Tashmjabi. Very starchy, and filling.
On the way to Mestia, the bus driver stopped for lunch, where he ordered the food, and we all ate, free of charge ( well, the trip itself was quite “expensive” for Georgian standards, so I am sure he covered the food quite well!) . Although I just wrote that I don’t eat meat, as I was given this slice of meat filled bread, and all the other passengers looking full of expectations, how I would like their traditional Svaneti dish, I felt the least I could do was try it! It was surprisingly good! Due to the lack of teeth, and the ones that I have left being in a terrible state, I avoid meat at all costs, but this was tender, spices and just melted in my mouth. Peoples smiles told me they all approved! The next slice was filled with cheese, my first preference, I was so full after the two slices that I could refuse the third one with a clear conscience!
Since I have arrived in Georgia, I have tried, unsuccessfully at times, to stay away from the deserts and the enormous slices of cake! What I did try in Mskheta, however, was the sweet churchkhela, a string of walnuts coated in a sort of pinkish caramel made from grape juice. Lots of stalls have them hanging outside, looking like sausages. You would not believe it, it was TOO sweet, for my liking! Yeah, this is me the sweet tooth princess, but it honestly hurt my teeth! I had come across this before in Tbilisi , but thought it was meat at first, so stayed away from it. Often you get offered small pieces, all with different tastes, I don’t mind it in very small doses.
The bread is plentiful and totally crispy and delicious. Hence I stay away from it! Chit is puri is baked from wheat flower, water and salt in a dedicated oven called a tone. No fat or oil is used.these long flat breads are sold every where and are especially delicious with the fresh honey! (The photo has pastry with kidney beans mashed inside, with lots of spices, delicious!)
What I do want to mention, as I am writing about local food, there are beehives every where and local honey is sold, by little old ladies sitting along the highway. On the trip to Mestia, we saw many , many bee boxes. are they still called hives if they are in boxes?) This honey from the mountains tastes completely different then the honey I tried in the cities. It is thicker, clearer and utterly, utterly delicious! Not to forget to mention, dirt and dirt cheap!
The last thing to write about is the incredible hospitality of the Georgian people! Georgia claims to be the birthplace of wine, which is a national passion. A popular spin – off of wine making is chacha, which is a grappa like fire water! It has about 45 to 55% alcohol content! It is cheap, and the Georgian people start drinking it early in the morning! The idea is that you slam it in one go, and then drink water or eat something. It is considered enormously rude not to accept an offered drink, but refused it I have! I can not start my day that way, although I have accepted it in the afternoon, and only to be polite, take my word for it, it brings tears to your eyes! At some guesthouses, you receive chacha as a welcome gift! A lovely thought!