Situated at the crossroads of East and West, Georgia has fallen within the orbit of many cultural influences and empires. One of the earliest Christian civilizations, Georgia has endured its share of invasions and Georgian cuisine is well reflective of its past. In the times of peace, as merchants carried goods and spices along the Great Silk Road, Georgians embraced new seasonings and methods, adopted and incorporated foreign ingredients and styles into their own. Throughout the centuries, Georgian food has been influenced by the Mediterranean world, Arab and Mongol flavors, Persian and Ottoman kitchens, the link stretching as far as Northern India. Today’s Georgian cuisine is a rich interplay between Mediterranean and Middle Eastern tastes. Georgian food and wine culture are best observed through Supra – a traditional feast featuring a wide array of assortment of dishes always accompanied by large amounts of wine, lasting several hours.
Kharcho is a slow-cooked thick meat stew with tomatoes, spices and aromatic herbs. Its distinctive aromatic feature owes largely to the use of Khmeli Suneli- a marigold rich Georgian counterpart of Indian curry blend. Gomi is a staple food of Samegrelo – region in the west and breeding ground for some of the most savory and elaborate dishes (Kharcho also originates from Samegrelo). For centuries Megrels made Gomi with millet – an indigenous crop to be subsequently replaced with maize, which proved to be more stable as a culture.
These are thoroughly chopped and boiled vegetables of different kind, mixed with garlic, onion, herbs and walnut. Most popular one is made of spinach, though there are some other Pkhali worth tasting, such as kale, beet or cabbage.
Eggplant with nuts. Sounds nothing interesting? You are so wrong! Slices of eggplant are fried and then nuts, cilantro (coriander), and garlic mix are rolled inside these slices, and usually, it is all seasoned with pomegranate. It is nothing you have ever tried before.
And eggplants again, but this time with a completely different flavor. This dish is well known not only in Georgia but in some other neighboring countries. Major ingredients are eggplants and tomatoes. They are boiled together with potatoes, garlic, pepper, and some herbs. This is a very popular dish during summer, though we love it all year round.
A skewer of meat, be it veal, lamb or pork is a symbol of true celebration à la géorgienne. While the choice of meat varies from region to region and also according to seasons, the grilling method is more or less the same throughout. Out-of-age grapevine is considered to be noblest among the choice of wood. Once grilled, meat cubes are removed from skewers and shaken in a pot of thinly sliced onions and pomegranate juice. Sizzling meat slightly caramelizes the onions, while pomegranate juice forms a mild, acidy sauce with the meat juices.
Khinkali is a popular dumpling made with a variety of fillings. In the mountains, this much-praised dish is made with lamb, which comes in abundance, elsewhere, a mixture of minced beef and pork is used. The origins of Khinkali can’t precisely be traced; some accounts point to Tatar influence, others claim khinkali to be an indigenous product of Georgia’s primordial mountain culture.
Beans? Yeap, beans, but with onion, garlic, herbs, and local seasonings and this is delicious! The best Lobio is served in a clay pot. Consider ordering some marinades with it. Among cabbage, cucumber, tomato, pepper, and other more or less familiar vegetable marinades, you can find Jonjoli – Georgian bladdernut. Jonjoli is a medium-sized bush producing long-stemmed flowers, which are harvested just before they flower in May and consumed throughout the year.
Cheese plate (Sulguni, Smoked Sulguni, Guda)
Georgians rely heavily on their cheese and each region makes its own variety. Sulguni, the specialty of Western Georgia is perhaps the most admired semi-soft Georgian cheese. Its high moisture content is reminiscent of Mozzarella. Guda is a pungent mountain cheese from Tusheti, traditionally made with sheep’s milk and aged in sheepskin.
Some like it with ketchup, others with mayonnaise, while Georgians love it with Tkemali. Named after wild Plum – in Georgian Tkemali, this sauce can be sweet or sour. The color range is also pretty wide starting from dark red, ending with light green, and yes, the whole color gradation. If you have not tasted fried potatoes with Tkemali yet, you are lucky, you have a huge pleasure to experience ahead. That’s not exactly the standalone meal, but believe me not a single Georgian can live without it and they are adding it almost everywhere.