Gastronomy was one of the main reasons we decided to visit Georgia. With influences from the Caucasus region, Eastern Europe, the Mediteranean area and the Middle East, it looked like our favorite mix of flavors, spices and herbs.
During the week we spent in Georgia we tried as much as possible to explore their gastronomy. With a bit of online research and a bit of help from the locals we managed to have a taste of some of the Georgian recipes and to understand their connection between culture, traditions, food and wine.
We mostly visited the Eastern and Central Georgia, leaving the West for a future trip, but still we had a lot to try, taste and fall in love with. Here’s a detailed list of some of Georgia’s trademarks when it comes to their cuisine.
Pastry based dishes are probably the most known ones from the Georgian cuisine. Restaurants have them in their menus and locals still have them included in their daily diet. Women prepare the dough at home and cook it in their ovens. It can be flat simple breads, sometimes it can be a mixture of corn flour and wheat flour.
It can be Khinkali, a sort of stuffed ravioli, usually with minced meat and a mixture of spices, but also with cheese and vegetables.
It can be Khachapuri, their well known cheese bread, spread all over the country. It can be filled with cheese, but also vegetables, it all depends on what ingredients are available in the house.
Lamb based dishes are also quite famous in Georgia and for us it was a true delight as we never say no to anything that has lamb in it. Chaquapuli is their most known lamb dish, mostly prepared during the Easter Holidays, but not only. It’s a true masterpiece, a slow cooked lamb stew with lots of tarragon and coriander, wine and a mixture of lots of aromatic herbs.
Maybe not so much promoted, wild mushrooms are something we are always very eager to try. The area around Kutaisi (and not only) is full of them and visiting some small villages will for sure allow you to taste them. Caesar’s Mushroom (Amanita caesarea), one of their most famous one, was also the superstar of one of our dinners while in Georgia. Cooked on the open fire, then mixed with a walnuts sauce – excellent!
For a true wild mushrooms experience, I suggest you try Mushroom Art House – “Nikvi’s Communa”.
Jonjoli is something you will find mostly on the locals’ dinner tables and not in restaurants that much. It’s something completely new, that I have never heard of or tasted before. Georgians do enjoy eating a lot of pickled vegetables and jonjoli is among them. This jonjoli dish consists of pickled sprouts from a bush called “Caucasian bladder-nut”, often pickled with pepper and onions. It has a bit of a bitter taste, but goes very well with main dishes. People also just eat it sometimes as a snack with wine or cha cha.
Ekala is again something very specific to Georgia, a plant that I’ve never heard about before and for which I tried to find an international name, but couldn’t find any. It’s something similar to spinach, Georgians tried to explain us. The main recipe using Ekala is a sort of salad made with boiled Ekala leaves and a sauce made of walnuts, garlic and lots of fresh coriander.
Cheese is something Georgians produce and eat a lot and each region has its own assortments. Sulguni is probably the most known cheese type in Georgia, but also Guda (mostly in the mountains, in the Western part of the country).
Wallnuts are present in so many dishes in Georgia that we ended up eating them almost every day of our trip. Either it’s walnuts paste, made with oil and garlic (replacing the classic European mayonnaise), or freshly hand pressed walnut oil. Acommpanying a wide range of dishes, including roasted eggplants, wild mushrooms stews, or Ekala and vegetables salads.
Coriander is definitely the superstar of this country and although I read so many things about the Georgian cuisine, it wasn’t mentioned anywhere. For us, this trip was also the one that made us reconsider our opinion on coriander, which we didn’t like some much before. But after this trip and after tasting all their wonderful dishes literally stuffed with fresh coriander leaves, we learnt to appreciate its purpose in life (and also started using it at home when cooking).
Wine and Cha cha
Wine in Georgia is the biggest thing ever. They have their own production method and storage method and they talk about wine and the importance it has in their country for days. I wrote more about wine and wine making here.
Cha cha is a very strong alcoholic drink, similar to grapa, rakia, tuica, and it’s made from what remains unused while making wine.
More info about restaurants we checked out and gastro tours we took while visiting the country, in the articles below. For some very authentic gastro-rural (but not only) trips, I suggest you contact Culinary & Wine Expedition, they were the ones who helped us discover Georgia’s cuisine.