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Khachapuri – National Dish of Georgia

Georgian cuisine had a reputation in the former Soviet Union as being the belle of the ball.  After all, Georgia’s geographical location lends itself to a cuisine that is both tasty and unique.  Positioned at the crossroads between Eastern Europe and the near-Mid East, Georgia once was part of the famed Silk Road.  Geographic neighbors include Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia; Georgia is bounded on the west by the Black Sea.  Georgia’s distinct culture was also defined in part by adopting Christianity as early as the 4th century, one of the first countries to do so.

What does this mean in gastronomic terms?  Well, Georgian cuisine is comfortable mixing and matching such Mediterranean and Near-East ingredients as yogurt, olive oil, lamb and pomegranates with such European staples as cheese, plums, peaches, apples, cherries, and corn.  Beans and rice take on a new life in the hands of Georgian cooks.  Given Georgia’s early Christian heritage, all meats are used in meal preparation; fish brought from the Black Sea also adds to the culinary richness of the country.

Since geography contributes to history and to culture, Georgia’s place in the world means a distinctive cuisine with an intriguing blend of East meets West.  Take, for example, the dish called kuchmachi.  This traditional meal can be made from beef or pork meat and offal, and includes onions, cumin, olive oil and pomegranate seeds.

Bughlama is a lamb stew spiced with a plethora of tastes:  onion, garlic, saffron, mint, coriander, tarragon, dill, ginger, and cayenne and black pepper.

A meat casserole dish, called chakhokhbili, can be made with either chicken or lamb, and features a tomato-wine base.  This dish is served up with chopped greens and lemon wedges.

The ubiquitous dish of Khinkali, whether steamed or boiled, is Georgia’s contribution to the world pantheon of dumplings.  These large flour dumplings are filled with chopped beef, pork, herbs, onions, and a broth which forms as the dumplings cook.  To eat a khinkali, hold the dumpling upside down by its twisted top and nibble small bites from its side, sucking up broth as you proceed.  Vegetarian versions include mushroom or cheese as filling options.

Another point of pride for Georgian cuisine is Chakapuli, a dish made from lamb chops, onions, white wine, tarragon, parsley, dill, mint, cilantro, garlic, and tkemali sauce.  Tkemali, or plum sauce, is a familiar accompaniment to many Georgian dishes.  Chakapuli is served at holiday feasts, such as at Eastertime.

But the piece de resistance in Georgian cuisine, its primary calling card in the global foods community, is the national dish of khachapuri, or hachapuri.  This melted cheese pastry, has several verrsions, and is a staple in Georgia.  A favorite is Adjarian Khachapuri (see photo) which is formed into a boat shape, filled with suluguni cheese, and topped with a raw egg while still hot. Another popular choice is Imeretian Khachapuri, it is circular and filled with cheese.  Ossetian Khachapuri has a potato and cheese filling.  Khachapuri is so popular that Georgian officials are working to place this ambassador of taste under trademark protection.  Not only is it hoped that new markets can be opened for Georgian foods in Western Europe and the United States, but Georgians also hope to stop the desecration of meat and mushrooms that Ukrainians and Russians are inflicting upon this icon of Georgian cooking.  A law is currently in process at the National Intellectual Property Center and, under this regulation, the khachapuri would receive the protection of the EU’s Traditional Specialty Guaranteed trademark program:  only traditional ingredients; and no creative license with the recipe is allowed.

But with a historical backdrop of original fusion cooking, Georgian cuisine will also continue to surprise and delight the intrepid traveling foodie.  If you can’t make it to Georgia, the next best place to find Georgian cuisine is in Russia.  Most large cities in Russia have lots of Georgian restaurants, or you can atleast find Georgian food served at most Russian restaurants.  Russian and Georgian restaurants are spreading across the world, if you ever see one, make sure you try some of the incredibly delicious foods we have mentioned. Georgia also has some fantastic wines, try some Saperavi, or Tsinandali, other drinks worth trying are non – alcoholic lagidze waters, or try borjomi, or ludi.  If you would like some recipes for authentic Georgian cuisine check out this site in Georgia –   AboutGeorgia.ge