Thursday, 5 July 2018

Georgia(Sakartvelo) thru eyes of a Foodie


Dear Friends,

I’m back from my 12 day vacation in Georgia. We had good time in Georgia, it’s a beautiful country with lots to offer. This vacation was a bit different from the vacations we have taken in last 4 years, different in both good and bad way.  However, I would like to talk about the good things and use proper forums to review facilities and services which didn’t meet my expectations.

Some of you may know I started this blog to record memories of my travels but then life happened. With the onset of fancy travel blogs and accounts on Instagram in recent times, I was a bit intimated that no one will like my plain writing and simple mobile phone pictures. However, I have realised that one should do things which make one happy without thinking about the reaction of audience on social media. With that in mind, I’m going to talk to you about another hobby/passion of mine -Food.

I became interested in different types of Indian cuisine when I moved to Western part of India for my first job. My room mates hailed from different states and cooked food which I had never eaten before. The interest grew when I met my then future husband and I wanted to cook for him . Since then I have expanded my horizon and now I can cook recipes from following cuisines- Indian (which is collection of 50 different cuisines), Turkish, Italian, Mexican, Arabic and English.

During these years I have discovered that a hobby isn’t about doing only one thing, there is so much more you learn thru a hobby- about cultures, history . For example, thru my hobby of cross stitching, I have learnt about festivals and holidays in western world, learnt names of new flowers, fruits etc.  

During my travels , I have seen that food brings people together. I have seen people connecting and bonding over food. Each year when I plan to travel to a new destination, I study about the cuisine of the country. The focus is to eat local (vegetarian) food, understand what ingredients are used and why. We avoid eating Indian food or at fast food chains when travelling.

Through this post I will narrate my journey in Georgia thru food.

The first thing which shows in google search when you look up Georgian food is Khachapuri. It is a staple food of Georgians, available in homes, restaurants and road side stalls.
Khachapuri – to describe simply is stuffed bread. Wheat dough is rolled into rounds, stuffed and then baked in ovens. The stuffing varies from cheese, red beans, potatoes, spinach (tarragon actually) to red meat.  The most famous among tourist is Adjarian Khachapuri , which is like Turkish pide but with semi cooked eggs, cheese and salted butter. This Khachapuri hails from the coastal region of Georgia and the shape represent a boat. I liked it the most from the various Khachapuri I ate.

ACHARULI – AJARIAN KHACHAPURI

Picture from our dinner at Puri Guliani , Funicular, Tbilisi


Megruli Khachapuri
Picture from our lunch at Bermuxa, Zugdidi
Kinkali – it is Georgian dumpling stuffed with cheese , potatoes or meat. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to taste this as most of the places I asked for it had only non-vegetarian version.

Image from Internet
I always make a list of vegetarian food available in the new country I travel to. It is important to know the local name of the dishes when travelling to non- English speaking countries.
My travel guide in Georgia was surprised when I showed him the list of food I wanted to eat during our tour.

This time it was a bit of struggle to get vegetarian food when I said I didn’t want to eat Khachapuri anymore. If you ask for vegetarian food in Georgia, you are suggested to order Khachapuri , if you say no, most of the times they serve you potatoes , mushrooms or salad.

Georgia has a rich fertile soil and most of the things are grown naturally with no pesticides or fertilisers. So if you are like me, thinking I didn’t travel to 2000 miles to eat potatoes, think again. I ate stir fried potato chips almost once in a day during my trip but I must tell you the potatoes with just a pinch of salt were mind blowing. I stopped eating potatoes in 2017 due to health reasons but it was hard to resist the stir fried potato chips in Georgia.

Georgia has wide variety of mushrooms which they use a lot in cooking. The variety of dishes they make with mushrooms is very interesting.
Pan baked Mushroom with almost no spice.
Picture from our lunch at KP  Tavern, Tbilisi
Mchadi – This is traditional corn bread of Georgia. When I first ate it, I was surprised that it tasted so much like Makka ki roti –India flat bread made from Maize.

I ate variations of corn bread, each beating other in flavor. I even ate corn on the cob from a road side stall ..ha ha
Dobali
Picture from our dinner at Ethno Tsiskvili, Tbilisi
Mushroom Kuchmachi & Chvishtari(cheese corn bread)
Picture from our lunch at Cafe Ushguli Maspindzeli , Ushguli
A must visit home establishment where everything is made to order and you can actually  participate in cooking.
Lobiani served with Mchadi and pickled veggies
Picture from our lunch at KP  Tavern, Tbilisi
Lobiani- its name of food made from red/kidney beans. Most of the time it is served with Mchadi and pickled veggies. Do you know Lobia is Hindi name for black eyed peas?

Now coming to less popular vegetarian food…these were served when I dug deep and asked the chef what else they can serve except the above listed.

Badrijani Nigvzit - Georgian Eggplant Rolls with Walnut-Garlic Filling. Very interesting recipe, never imagined using nuts with eggplant.

Badrijani Nigvzit
Picture from our dinner at Kidobani, Tbilisi
Jonjoli is one of the Georgian appetisers. In particular, these are pickled sprouts from a bush that grows in the area. Jonjoli is consumed in various ways, sometimes it’s mixed with olive oil or with other pickled vegetables such as cucumber, pepper or tomatoes. The appetiser goes well with Lobio, Georgian bean soup as well as with boiled potatoes or simply with Georgian corn bread mchadi together with cheese.
Jonjoli
Picture from our dinner at Ethno Tsiskvili, Tbilisi

Green Salad- with its fresh veggies, the salad with cucumber, onion and tomatoes in Georgia are class apart. If you happen to be in Tbilisi, do try Green salad in Summer Menu of Barberstan. This restaurant is one of the highest rated in Georgia but apart from the salad , we were disappointed with the availability of veg food.
Most amazing Green salad at Barberstan
Vegetarian soup- I was lucky to stay in home stays during my trip and the owner made vegetarian soup for me. This soup is quite different from the traditional soups I’m used to eating. Traditional soups are made of boiled veggies or lentil which are pureed and then cooked with spices. Georgian veg soup was more like a stew- big chunks of veggies cooked in water with sauteed onions.

Tolma- Very similar to Turkish Dolma /stuffed vegetables. Mine was stuffed with cooked rice and served with sour cream.
Made to order Tolma at Ushba Guest house, Mestia
Nazuki is Georgian spicy sweet bread. This scrumptious treat is made in different parts of Georgia , but nazuki from Surmai , a small town in Shida Kartli Region, stands out with its exceptional taste. Every Georgian and tourist alike who passes beautiful Surmai road is unable to resist a good loaf of homemade sweet bread exhibited by the locals in front of their homes.
Image from Internet
Churchkhela is a traditional Georgian candle-shaped candy. The main ingredients are grape must, nuts and flour. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnut and chocolate and sometimes raisins are threaded onto a string, dipped in thickened grape juice or fruit juices and dried in the shape of a sausage. This is the best souvenir you can get for your friends and family.
Image from Internet
I should mention that Georgian cuisine is known for its meat dishes as the meat used is natural and not factory produced. My husband who eats selective meats praised the roasted trout he ate by the river side in Pasanuri.

Georgian is famous for its cheese, wine and breads. Every house has a local winery and bread baking set up.

If you love cheese- there is so many varieties to taste- Sulguni and Imeruli being the most popular ones.

If you are not found of wine , try Chacha- which is home made vodka.

June is fruit harvest season in Georgian plains, we were in awe of the abundance of cherries, apples, pears, plums in the market. The otherwise plain food of Georgia is well complimented by fruit sauces/chutneys, jams and pickles served with it. 
Tkemali- Sour plum sauce
My post will be incomplete without the mention of bee keeping business in Georgia. We found thousands of bee houses adjacent to the roads we took to get to various regions of the country. It is major occupation of the country.
Bee houses in Svaneti region
I hope you haven’t dozed off until now … ha ha this has become a long post.

Georgian food relies on the natural flavor of ingredients and most of the times least of spices are used , quite opposite to spices heavy Indian food.

Many of the dishes I mentioned in my post are vegan or can be made vegan , so pls ask if you need more info about these or in general about Georgia.

I'm going to try making some of these in my Kitchen.

P.S.-The views expressed in this post are mine , I have added links to the restaurants and eateries I ate at.This post is not paid , I wanted to document good places to eat in Georgia .

13 comments:

  1. Wow! You really seem more into food than cross stitch :D
    Great information about the food items in Georgia! And glad to know that you know so many cuisines :) Enjoy cooking new dishes!

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  2. Such an interesting post - and you have made me feel really hungry describing all these dishes! x

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  3. I loved reading about all the different foods you had Mini! Please share with us how you make out when you recreate these at home :)

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  4. What a wonderful way to document your holiday! And a great way to bring back the memories by cooking those dishes at home.
    Did you try any local honey while you were there?

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  5. Thanks Mini, I am re-living food experience through your blog.

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  6. Omg this one's making me so hungry at 10 pm! I really liked how you've described your food travel... You almost sounded like those Rocky and Mayur from the TV channel - Living Foodz.
    I am not that good at cooking. However I am like you, I would love to try the local cuisines...
    I also love to know on the history of the place and any information on the place, food, climaec, geography, architecture, culture etc...
    Keep going and keep writing some more beautiful write-ups and stories... You're good at this!

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  7. A great write up about the food on your travel Mini! You are brave to holiday where you knew you would struggle to find vegetarian food, but it sounds like you had a great time despite this!
    It was good to see all those different types of meals, especially to read about the way they sell their foods.
    The sweets sound great!
    Sounds like you had a great trip!
    Did you lose weight?
    Hugs,
    Barbara xx

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  8. Ooo what a lot of fun stuff here! I love to cook (maybe I just love to eat :D) too. I really like the idea of churchkhela and probably would've bought souvenirs just for myself haha. Jonjoli looks interesting though I haven't the slightest idea where I'd get it. I'll have to look in the international market to see if it comes canned. I try to have one vegetarian meal a week (plus any leftovers) but any more would cause Husband Mutiny. Kinkali sounds amaaaazing. I love all kinds of dumplings!

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  9. That’s a lovely post Mini... really a foodie post. Sorry for not visiting you often

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  10. Your food report was more than interesting, Mini. When I travelled to a new country or region I always tried to taste some of the typical food. That's just as interesting as do the sightseeing.

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  11. Interesting post Mini and a delight to see so many different foods. love the look of the salad, jonjoli and Dobali.

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  12. I loved this write up! The culture and cuisine is something I’ve never experienced. I’d be very interested in a follow-up, maybe where you try to recreate something at home and share a recipe.

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