Feasting on Local Food in Georgia
Feasting on local food is by itself a good enough reason to travel to Georgia, although we do recommend avoiding the scales for a while after your trip (says Michelle, Nikki doesn’t share the same concerns)! The food in Georgia, Europe (just in case you got lost in Atlanta), is an outstanding experience!
Very heavy on meat, cheese and salt, Georgian cuisine is flavoursome but can also be overwhelming if you are used to lighter fare. Since trying out the local delicacies is an important part of our travels, we aimed to sample as many traditional dishes as possible during our trip. Here are some of our favourites:
Our top selection of food in Georgia, Europe
A long flat bread baked in a tone (a deep circular clay oven with a fire burning at the bottom of it). One morning as we were walking around Tbilisi, we curiously popped into a bakery where we were invited to watch the bread being made. The dough is literally thrown to the sides of the oven to which is sticks. The bread, which is cooked very quickly, is removed from the wall with a long hook and was served to us in a newspaper. We were told that it is best eaten whilst still warm and fresh – we devoured it within minutes!
Khachapuri (cheese bread)
A bread usually filled or topped up with Suguli cheese and sometimes egg. There are several types of Khachapuri but our favourite was Acharuli Khachapuri which is the boat shaped variety, filled with cheese and topped with a raw egg and large knob of butter (see why you need to avoid the scales!). Other types of Khachapuri are Imeretian Khachapuri, a round dough topped with cheese and Mingrelian Khachapuri, similar to Imeretian but with even more cheese.
Thick Georgian dumplings usually filled with meat, cheese, potatoes or mushrooms, flavoured with onions, cumin and coriander which usually also contain a tasty broth. The correct way to eat them is to hold each one up (without using utensils) and take a small bite from the bottom, suck out the juices (without allowing them to dribble down your chin) and then proceed to eat the rest of the dumpling except for the topmost part which should be left on your plate. Mastering the art of dumpling eating takes some practice!
Skewered chunky juicy meat kebabs. Enough said. Nikki’s favourite food in Georgia, Europe.
Lobio (pot of beans)
Stewed kidney beans flavoured with onions, spices and coriander and cooked in a clay pot. We often ordered Lobio as a starter with bread and were surprised at the huge amount of different regional varieties of the dish, some of which were even served cold. Our favourite version was a piping hot, thick, stewy concoction from Kutaisi.
A bread filled with beans, usually kidney beans and sometimes bacon. A somewhat heavy but nonetheless delicious accompaniment to some Mtsvadi or stew.
Mushroom suluguni in a ketsi (clay) dish
Aside dish we ordered often so as to try include some veggies in our meal. A great vegetarian option if you want to go easy on the meats.
A popular spicy Georgian sausage usually made from pork or beef and fried with onions.
Badridzhani Nigvsit (eggplant with spicy walnut sauce)
A very tasty vegetarian dish combining some of my favourite ingredients. I look forward to perfecting this dish at home!
Shkmeruli (chicken cooked in a milk and garlic sauce)
We ordered this dish every time we saw it on a menu. Fresh bread soaked in the leftover hot milky garlic sauce is the ultimate Georgian comfort food.
A stuffed bread typical of the mountainous Svaneti region usually filled with beef, pork or a mixture of both. The bread is very filling, it’s almost like a meat pie, so this together with some warm Lobio made for a simple supper which we really appreciated as we tried to keep warm in the cold Svan climate. The wine helped too!
A traditional hearty soup with beef, tomato, rice, walnuts, plum and coriander. As nourishing as it gets!
A popular Georgian stew made with meat, wine, tarragon leaves, plums, onions and coriander. The version we tried was made with veal. Although we thoroughly enjoyed eating the stew, the laxative properties of the tarragon leaves became evident very soon after. Trust me, you want to be close to a functional toilet if you are not accustomed to consuming large quantities of tarragon.
Tkemali (plum sauce)
A very popular condiment which can be made green (made with unripe plums in the spring) or red (made with ripe plums in autumn)… a bowl of Tkemali is brought to the table with almost every meal especially if meats are being served.
Nuts (very often walnuts) are threaded onto a string, dipped in thick fruit syrups and dried to make this colourful sausage-shaped sweet. Rows of differently coloured Churchkhekla hang prettily in roadside stalls and a bunch of them can be bought for just a few lari – an easy snack to have at hand during a road trip. A sweet temptation in our list of food in Georgia, Europe.
Home to several wine-making regions, Georgia is often thought to be the birthplace of winemaking and it is here that the oldest wine-making remains were found. Georgia’s mild climate is optimal for cultivating vines and 500 grape varieties can be found growing within its different regions. The Kakheti region is well known for making wine and this is where the most famous wineries are located, many of which can be visited for wine-tasting sessions. Locals in this region very often make their own house wine and guesthouse owners typically greeted us with huge jugs of homemade produce.
An alcoholic drink made with grape residue (but can be made with other fruits too) often distilled at home. Only for those who can handle the strong stuff. After all, you do need a digestive after all this great food in Georgia, Europe!