Cuisine in Georgia? Delicious, served in abundance, quite simple and rather cheap. The portions are enormous, although not expensive, therefore after almost each lunch or dinner you’re left with a few pieces of khachapuri bread to take home with you. What is an absolute culinary must in Tbilisi, Batumi and the Caucasus Mountains? Well, there is no visit to Georgia without two dishes: the already mentioned khachapuri bread in different versions (but almost always with salty cheese) and originally-shaped khinkali dumplings. These two accompanied us throughput our whole journey in Georgia — we ate them for lunch, dinner and khachapuri sometimes even for breakfast (when we managed to find them in a bakery near the road, on our way…). That’s why I’ll start with this specialty!

KHACHAPURI

chaczapuri imeruli, Gruzja

basic version — khachapuri imeruli

There are a couple different types of Georgian breads (or “pizzas” as Maks called them) but their names all sound quite similar.

I got the impression that khachapuri imeruli, the one with cheese inside, and khachapuri megruli, with cheese on top,are bestsellers in each and every restaurant. There is also a “double cheese” version (with cheese inside and on top) — we found it in Beer Bar in Batumi, on the corner of the streets Pushkin and Lermontov — and it was delicious. If you feel like adding something to your menu, choose Adjaruli khachapuri in the shape of a boat, with cheese, raw egg and butter “swimming” in it.

Our guidebook said that Adjaruli khachapuri can be found only in Adjara region with Batumi as the capital city, near the Black Sea, but the one you can see below, which we ate in Baraka restaurant in Kutaisi also looked amazing, don’t you think?

chaczapuri adżaruli, Gruzja

advanced version

Khaczhpuri is a great starter, a good side order to meat dishes or stewed vegetables, and a convenient snack while you’re on the road. After 3 days of our stay in Georgia, we took them with us every time we drove from one place to another, as they taste very good also cold.

And what if we feel we’ve had enough khachapuri? It’s high time for khinkali dumplings!

KHINKALI

Chinkali, Gruzja

tasting khinkali mix

Khinkali are dumplings, which have the shape of a pocket with various fillings, usually meat, although you can also find versions with mushrooms, salty cheese or potatoes. Now and then you’ll come across khinkali with salmon — they were of course Maks’ favourite 🙂 When eating khinkali you have to know how to do it properly: the classic ones are filled with juicy meat seasoned with coriander. After boiling, inside the dumpling you’ll find the meat and… some bullion. What you should do it to suck this bullion with your first bite and then eat the rest of the khinkali. I have to confess that I didn’t always manage to do it this way but Łukasz was almost perfect at it 🙂

chinkali, Gruzja, Piwny Bar, Batumi

how to eat khinkali

Some say that the top of each dumpling should not be eaten but left on the plate — and this is what we did. Khinkali is also a perfect way to eat on the budget: one dumpling costs about 0.50-0.60 lari (PLN 1.20-1.50). And I guarantee that having eaten 5-7 pieces you’ll fill really full 🙂

In a local restaurant Piwny Bar(Beer Bar) in Batumi, where our fellow guests were having a feast and eating a lot of khinkali each, we managed to see how this specialty is prepared. Let’s take a look:

chinkali, Gruzja

how khinkali are made

chinkali, Gruzja

filling and forming the perfect shape

chinkali, Gruzja

almost ready…

chinkali, Gruzja

what you’ve all been waiting for!

SULGUNI

Apart from khachapuri and khinkali, in many bars and restaurants you’ll find sulguni cheese in the menu. Ususally it is served as a cheese platter or baked in the oven but from time to time you’ll probably find such curiosities as cheese dumplings. Now, I don’t know what you would expect after hearing such name but I was waiting for some kind of… dumplings with cheese 😉 To my biggest surprise what landed on the table was melted cheese (in the shape of dumplings, I admit) which actually looked very similar to oven-baked sulguni 🙂

ser sulguni, Gruzja

oven-baked sulguni cheese

sulguni,  Gruzja

cheese dumplings – looks almost the same as the dish in the last picture 🙂

CHMERULI AND OTHER DIHES FOR MEATLOVERS

As you can see, Georgian cuisine is all about cheese, bread and bread-like specialties, which is served with every meal. However, meat lovers will also find something for themselves, including shashliks and chicken in a thick garlic sauce called chmeruli chicken. This dish is quite unusual and very filling so I would recommend considering it a dinner for two — unless you’re very very hungry!

kurczak czmeruli, Gruzja

garlic chmeruli chicken

In many places you’ll also find pork with potatoes or pork, mutton and beef shashliks, although to be honest those specialties didn’t appeal to us that much… What we liked much more were meatballs (made with minced meat), similar to koftas¸ with pomegranate seeds inside…

shashlik, Gruzja

shashlik – not my favourite

Gruzja, Tibilisi

meat dinner in Tbilisi

If this heavy and very cheesy Georgian cuisine seems too much for you, it’s a good idea to try some vegetable dishes, most of which include an aubergine (such as aubergine with garlic or with nut paste and pomegranate), or peppers stuffed with nuts paste and pchali pastes — with beetroot or spinach leaves. You can add a local salad with tomatoes and cucumbers sprinkled with ground walnuts… Aubergine or peppers with nuts paste + Georgian bread = yummy!

bakłażany, granat, Gruzja

aubergine with nut paste and pomegranate

bakłażany faszerowane pastą orzechową, pchali, Gruzja

aubergines, peppers and pchali

Gruzja

taking a rest from khinkali and khachapuri

We also liked stewed vegetables, served sautée or oven-baked with an egg. It’s a rather heavy one but tastes amazing! 🙂

duszone warzywa, Gruzja

delicious!

And of course the thing I’ve mentioned before — bread. Huge and moist inside, and just perfect to be torn into pieces and eaten with stewed vegetables or with nuts paste… Maks also became its fan No. 1!  On our way from Kutaisi to Mestia (situated in the Georgian mountains), we stopped over in a small bakery in Zugdidi to see how this delicious bread is made. So, the dough is “thrown” on the inside, hot walls of the oven and then the baker “dives” into it to take the bread out. Quite an interesting process, don’t you think? 🙂

chleb, Gruzja

Maks and his Georgian bread

gruziński chleb, Zugdidi

in a bakery in Zugdidi

chaczapuri, Zugdidi, Gruzja

a “dive” into the oven!

As a well-known chocolate lover (and generally a fan of sweets), I couldn’t of course forget about desserts. In this case, Georgia didn’t really come to my expectations. On the other hand, it was so hot there that I can’t say I missed sweets that much…

Talking of sweets, what should you try when you’re in Georgia? Well, definitely churchele, which is a combination of something sweet and a healthy snack — comes in very handy during long car journeys. Churchele are made with nuts and grape jelly and then dried. Honestly? When you see them for the first time they don’t look especially attractive, don’t you think? 😉

churchele, Mccheta, Gruzja

and..? 🙂

churchele, Gruzja

that’s how churchele look inside — and ready to be eaten

And?… Looks a bit like a sausage or maybe a… candle? Either way, it tastes great! My mum, for whom we brought some churchele to try wasn’t that happy at first, but then tried a bit and said „Oh my, this is good!”

The next dessert we tasted was pelamushi, which is something between a jelly, a pudding and grapes marmalade, sprinkled of course with walnuts… There is a funny story connected with this dessert and with the Georgian people speaking English: when we were trying to order our food on one of the busiest small streets in Tibilisi’s Old Town, the waitress for 5 minutes tried to convince us that “drink menu” was in fact the “dessert menu”, and for the next 5 minutes we were trying to establish the names of two desserts… Finally we got an apple pie insted of a baked apple 😉 Still, we did manage to get pelamushi and it is definitely worth recommending.

pelamushi, Gruzja

walnuts for dessert again

I guess that all when it comes to the basics of the Georgian cuisine. So what would you fancy? Khachapuri, khinkali or maybe churchele? 🙂

PS. Maks, our two-year-old buddy, didn’t really take to the local Georgian specialties. I’ll tell you pretty soon how we dealt with this problem 🙂 I will also invite you to Tibilisi, Batumi, rocky Uplistsikhe and the city of lovers, Signagi. No lack of Internet connection will stand in our way now, so I can officially announce the beginning of the Georgian week! 🙂