I wrote my first article for www.Travel-Wise.com last month. I shared the link with you to my story on my latest European adventure from Budapest to Nuremburg. (I’ve included the link after the recipe, which is another first for Chewing The Fat! A video recipe!) And it’s all from a writer for Travel-Wise called Kelly Dunning. According to my Editor at Travel-Wise “Kelly Dunning is a writer for Travel-Wise.com who has been traveling the world full time since May 2011. You’ll usually find Kelly hunched over her laptop in cafes, hammocks and hostel rooms all over South America, Southeast Asia, Europe and beyond — typing furiously about travel destinations, food, activities and all of the awesome experiences the world has to offer.” Thanks Marissa!
Today, Kelly takes us to Georgia. I thought I should tell you a little about the country and its capital city, Tbilisi. Never having personally experienced the country, I went and discovered the following:
If you’ve been to Georgia, the first thing you’ll discover is just how beautiful it is. Bordered on one side by the impressive heights of the Caucasus Mountains and on the other by the Black Sea, the country sits on the cultural divide between East and West. The capital city Tbilisi is a mixture of two cultures: European and West Asian melded in a vibrant mix that puts Turkish baths next to Designer shops, Cafes next to Orthodox churches.
Georgian cuisine is most notable for its sheer quantities of food and North Americans will be amazed at how inexpensive it is. These hearty dishes are accompanied by Georgian wines, which the Wall Street Journal recently heralded with the headline “Is the Country of Georgia the Next Great Wine Destination?” So without further ado, welcome Kelly Dunning to Chewing the Fat. And take it away!
Georgian Food You Must Try While in Tbilisi
By: Kelly Dunning
After a full day of wandering up and down the steep cobblestone streets of Georgia’s capital, Tbilisi, there’s nothing more satisfying than tucking into a hearty and filling meal of traditional Georgian cuisine. The food in Georgia is rich and features plenty of fresh herbs, along with some of the tastiest locally grown produce you’ll find in the world. Here are some of the Georgian dishes you can’t miss:
A warning for those who are gluten or lactose intolerant — this classic Georgian dish is not for you! It’s a thick, doughy boat-shaped bread filled with warm, gooey baked cheese (and sometimes a fried egg). Salty, hearty and deeply satisfying, it goes extremely well with a pint of cold, crisp Georgian beer. (It can also be a great hangover cure when you are craving something filling and greasy to help you make it through the day after too much partying the night before.)
Ostri is a simple beef stew slow-cooked in a spicy tomato sauce. The beef is tender and melts in your mouth and the rich spices give you a warm, comforting feeling. If you’re on an adventure vacation in Georgia, this is the perfect meal after a long day of skiing on the slopes at Gudauri or hiking in Kazbegi. And do read about this exciting adventure of Travel-Wise. Here’s the link: https://travel-wise.com/adventure-vacations/ Of course, be sure to order some crispy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside homemade Georgian bread to go with your Ostri. It’s ideal for dipping in the spicy stew and sopping up every last drop from your bowl.
Those long, waxy, lumpy purple wands you see hanging in shop windows throughout Tbilisi are not candles or sausages. They are a traditional Georgian snack known as churchkhela. This sweet treat is made with concentrated grape juice left over from the yearly wine harvest, poured over strands of walnuts. As each layer dries, a chewy, thick waxy exterior covers the nuts. The strands are then chopped up and served as part of a cheese board with wine, cheese and honey.
It might look like a simple dish consisting mostly of kidney beans, but it’s much more complex than you might think. When you take a mouthful, you’ll be treated to a deep, rich flavor that includes fried onions, vinegar, dried marigold, cilantro and sometimes smoked ham or bacon. It’s wonderfully satisfying. Lobio is often served with mchadi, which is a skillet cornbread that is easy to make and is used to soak up the hearty bean mixture.
Tomato and Cucumber Salad (with Walnuts!)
I thought I didn’t like tomatoes, until I went to Georgia. It turns out that the tomatoes I grew up eating in Canada were watery and flavourless, picked before they were ripe and transported many miles before they reached me. When I tasted a fresh, juicy, sweet, locally grown Georgian tomato for the first time, it was like night and day. Georgian cuisine has a great selection of tasty salads, and tomato and cucumber salad is the ultimate classic. You’ll see it on every menu and it will be served at every Georgian feast. It’s incredibly simple: fresh juicy sliced tomatoes, chunks of cucumber and a paste made with crushed walnuts. Perhaps a few more spices such as cilantro or pepper might be added, but it’s not necessary. The vibrant flavor of the simple ingredients is all that is needed for this refreshing salad to shine.
These are probably the most famous of all traditional Georgian dishes and they are absolutely irresistible. Plump, doughy dumplings filled with juicy ground beef, lamb or pork, Khinkali are served with a generous sprinkling of black pepper. The meat is boiled within the dumpling, which means that all the delicious meat juices are trapped inside. That’s why eating a khinkali can be tricky — you have to tenderly take a small bite and carefully slurp the juices out before you can eat the rest of the dumpling. Make sure you don’t eat the little twisted knob of dough at the top — it’s meant to be discarded on your plate so you can keep track of how many you have eaten. You can also find khinkali filled with mushrooms or cheese, or sometimes with creative fusion ingredients (such as the escargot and garlic butter or salmon and dill khinkali at Metis
Make Your Own Khinkali At Home
Want to try making your own Georgian dumplings? Here’s a video guide:
Here’s the link to my Travel-Wise contribution….