The visit to Georgia in July 2016 introduced me to this dish- Khinkhali, a dish that I find to be a similar version of Momos that I am so very fond of eating and making in my kitchen.
The first lunch after landing in Tbilisi, Georgia in a restaurant in the busy Tbilisi Center, the menu card displayed this bigger version of dumplings that looked similar to momos. The guide told us it is called Khinkali and also informed us the way how we were supposed to eat it. It is a boiled dumpling with filling inside, a fried version could also be seen in the menu card. The inside filling could be of either Beef, lamb, chicken, potatoes or cheese etc. The menu card in the restaurant displayed the various Khinkali that were sold.
While visiting the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mtskheta, we stopped for lunch in the neighboring restaurant and I was able to see and click these amazing pictures of the Khinkali in making.
The Khinkali are shaped and kept on a board and are ready to be put into boiling water.
The hot Khinkali is then served to us and we hold at the folded top part and eat the rest of the khinkali and leave behind the top thick part on the plate. The filling is as per our choice and order.
I find it interesting to note that the mountainous regions are colder and one needs food that is easy to make, simple, and hot. The Nepal travel saw steaming hot momos being listed on the menu cards, the Georgian travel to the Mtshekta region saw the Khinkali in the process of making. This Georgian dish is famous throughout the country, and I would like to add here that it is similar to the steamed Momos, only the size is bigger and also the coating seems to be thicker. The potato and cheese filled Khinkali was too bland for my taste with only salt added , hence I could not relish them both.
Travelling to places makes us aware of not only the region, landscape and people but also the food habits and one finds a lot of similarities in food across far-flung regions with similar dishes but having the regional names. I find similarity of the Khinkali to the dumplings that one gets to see in a Chinese, or Tibetan or a Nepal menu. Do take every opportunity to travel, so that the foodies like me get to learn new recipes after each tour 🙂
I have tried making my version of the Khinkali yesterday and that will be my next post, so do return to check that out too 🙂 .
Traveling, for me, is to embark on a path that is unknown. Whenever I am traveling to a new place, the foodie in me is very much keen and interested to taste and experience the local cuisine from that region. Though I prefer mostly vegetarian food as I am not a very fond eater of lamb or red meat in particular, but am always keen to learn new region specific recipes, the family does enjoy eating non-veg food.
The Georgia tour package included plans of eating lunch on one of the days at the local farmers house, we had booked it in our itinerary with the tour operator, and ate the Georgian feast which is called as Supra, at his place. We went to the farmers house on the third day of our tour after starting the day visiting Gremi and the Nekresi monasteries. We had informed our tour guide of eating only chicken and hence meat or pork was not included in the lunch. Visiting the local farmer for lunch is part of the Georgian tour package, it gives us visitors a taste of the local homemade food and wine, get to know the local cuisine and customs associated. As it is a country famous for its wine, wine plays an important role in the local customs. As we reached our host Mr. Gavazi’s house, we were warmly welcomed by him and his gracious wife. They could not speak English, but I found them to be very friendly and a humble couple. The table was laid outside in the porch area of the house, had already been set when we reached with various dishes. The numerous plates were filled with lovely homemade dishes, fruits and salad vegetables all fresh produce from their farm. When my hubby needed some spice and asked for green chili, immediately the farmer plucked fresh chili from his yard.
I will share some pictures of the our Georgian feast- Supra 🙂
The table had all the homemade dishes, even the honey and cheese was homemade. The farmer’s wife had prepared all the dishes, and on our request only chicken was served as part of the non-veg dish and hence other meat is missing from this spread of dishes.
I loved tasting this dish, it was the first time I was tasting beetroot in this preparation. The onion in it was giving a nice crunch to the soft bite of the beetroot. It was a sweetish tangy taste.
This is the famous Georgian cheese called as Sulguni, used in many of the dishes including the national dish named as Khachapuri. It is salty to taste and bit elastic, crumbles easily. It was a bit too salty for my taste, not used to eating such salty homemade cheese :). I am used to eating homemade cottage cheese i.e. Paneer, it is without salt, unless we add salt to the milk before curdling it.
This is the kidney beans or Lobiani as they call it. The above dish is mashed up Lobia or beans with onions. It had the Georgian salt, was without chili, and hence we needed some spice and hubby asked for the green chili 🙂 .
Ajapsandali, as per the guide, hoping I have spelt it correct :). This tasted very much like out Indian Brinjal and tomato sabji. This was the Eggplant cut into long thin slice, fried and then cooked with onion and tomatoes with the Georgian salts and herbs. It tasted good, but yeah this too was not spicy.
This is also regularly eaten, as in most parts and one of my favorites, fried potatoes sprinkled with the Georgian salt.
Khachapuri is the national dish of Georgia. It is flatbread filled with cheese filling, Sulguni cheese is used. It is called with different names as per the filling, cheese either used as stuffing or as spread on top and the names given accordingly. If it is filled with Lobia it is called as Lobiani Khachapuri. This was more like our Indian flatbread- stuffed Naan, with a very cheesy tasting filling inside. It is a very rich dish.
This walnut filled Eggplant slices are served cold, and the walnut filling is so tasty, bit sharper in taste with the added salts and spices, it perfectly balances the bland and soft fried Aubergine slices. I liked this dish and am going to include in my home menus, memories of our tour :).
This is the regular bread that is a must with all the meals. We saw many bakeries making fresh bread and the locals taking home the daily supplies of bread. Do check out my post on the bread here.
I do not have to remind you all how the freshly from the farm fruits taste, directly on table from the trees, they were the best and very juicy. It was great feeling to eat this fresh a fruit after ages, here we are dependent on fruits sold in the supermarkets which are flown from all parts of the world 🙂 !
Fried chicken is the simple rotisserie style fry chicken, with the Georgian salts.
This homemade honey was quite thick and very granular, tasted more like an Indian sweet. It was the sweetest granular sugar syrup I felt :), but this was very tasty.
The below pictures show the different drinks served with the meal, homemade Georgian wines. Chacha is the local name of Vodka. You can check out my post on the visit to wine cellar here.
The wine plays a major role in the Supra. All the different types of wine, the red and white variety, and the Chacha and the Cognac were kept for tasting, but as I do not drink, it was left untouched.
We saw the farm after our lunch and saw the fresh tomatoes dangling on the plants in the farm. The green chili was freshly plucked for us upon our request for chili in the salad. It was interesting to note that for salad they keep the whole tomatoes and fruits in the plates on the table along with the knife to cut as per need and not served as cut salad. Our International travels expose us to the different and unique cultures of this world, the best form of gaining knowledge and interaction with other folks, don’t you agree!
I have learnt that the spice level in Georgian food is very mild compared to our daily Indian cooking. They use salts or spice paste called as Ajika, a mix of chili, garlic, herbs and spices in their cooking. We have to place an order for the spicy chutney or hot sauces separately with our dishes in the Restaurants, it is not served or kept on the table as in most other places. This was not known to us on the first day when we landed and ate our first lunch in Georgia. I purchased a hot sauce to add to our food, later the guide informed us that we can order the Ajika sauce that is spicy :).
This was the lunch that we ate that day, it was way too much for us to finish up all that was served in the table. The food was served in the many plates that are kept on the table, instead of big serving bowls. It was interesting to note the whole table was filled-up with plates full of the served dishes, serving plates, types of glasses, bottles of drinks, and bowls of honey and trays including the whole fruits and salad vegetables. We had a good hearty and tasty meal, the farmer was very friendly and was happily chatting and answering our queries, clicking pictures with us. Our guide was our translator 🙂 as the farmer could not speak English. The lady of the house was inside the house, she had just stepped out for sometime to greet us and then to bid us goodbye, but she was too sweet and soft spoken. The farmers mother too had greeted us and again went inside the house. I too had shared some dried fruits, Pistachios and the gulf region famous Dates with the family, who were happy to receive the Dates :). We finished up the lunch and then drank some black coffee, it was good.
After the lunch we visited the farmland that was in the adjacent plot and opposite to the house. He grew Strawberries, the best that I tasted, had Peaches laden trees, the grape vineyards, could see them with green unripe grape bunches. He had farm animals too-saw two fat pigs near the fence. He grew tomatoes, Eggplant, and potatoes too. Saw a bee-hive too. This farmer too had kept the wines bottles displayed for sale.
The farmers father was cleaning up the strawberry patch, he gave me few of the strawberries that he plucked from the plants, they were the best that I have eaten so far in my entire life. I have never before tasted strawberries this fresh, eaten directly plucked from the plants. The old man was very happy to share them with us.
This was our visit to the local farmer for a scrumptious Georgian lunch and to visit his farmland.The whole family works in the farm. This visit reminded me so much of my hubby’s late grandmother and our rural area visit in our hometown. Farmers are people who are self sufficient, living a simple and humble life, daily working very hard in their farmland. I had the privilege of visiting our grandmother’s rice fields and to live few days with her in the village, my most cherished memories of her.
I feel happy sharing here the pictures of the Georgian dishes that I ate during my travel, and hoping to hear your thoughts about this post. Wishing to see you visit here again 🙂 for my next posts.