Georgian food is arguably one of the most underrated cuisines in the world. Apart from the humble khachapuri, people hardly know what other dishes constitute Georgian cuisine. Considering the mountainous country is sandwiched between Europe and Asia, one can expect an array of flavors influenced by various places across Europe and Asia.
But keep in mind – dining at a Georgian restaurant is not for those quick, grab-a-bite-and-leave diners. It is very easy to lose track of time at the table. There’s a lot for you to try and not everything you try will be healthy or light but when you’re done, you will leave feeling stuffed and satisfied.
Here’s a Georgian food guide featuring a list of traditional Georgian speciality dishes and tips on what to eat and drink during your visit to Georgia. Since this list is based on my personal experiences, I’m only listing down the dishes I tried and loved. So first-timers, take note of these non-negotiable dishes that will always keep Georgia on your mind and in your heart.
No trip to Georgia or a Georgian restaurant is complete without a few tastes of Khachapuri, it’s national dish. It’s a warm, gooey, cheese-stuffed bread that feels like a warm hug on a gloomy day. Ask a local to recommend their favorite traditional dish and they’re sure to say Khachapuri as it’s easily available at every nook and corner! It’s comforting, indulgent and oozing with heart-stopping goodness. While some serve this dish pizza-style, the traditional version, known as khachapuri adjaruli, is a combination of fluffy bread shaped like a boat, with a giant hole in the middle that’s filled with pats of butter, runny eggs and oodles of cheese.
Think soupy dumplings – except a lot larger, distinctive looking thanks to their multiple pleats and a lot more flavorful. The twisted dough is stuffed with spices, onions and meats like lamb, beef, pork or with mushrooms and cheese and then served boiled or steamed. Though the fillings may vary with the area, these soupy dumplings come with a sense of urgency, as they are best enjoyed when eaten hot.
After all the khachapuris, Ojakhuri is just what you need. Another popular Georgian dish which translates to ‘family meal,’ consists of pork meat, fried potatoes, onion and garlic, all roasted together and served in a clay pot. It’s a simple, aromatic and flavor-packed dish. If you don’t eat pork, pick between chicken or mushrooms. Every place has it’s own version of garnishes so the taste may vary but it’s definitely something you must try.
A very simple, effortless and fuss-free dish – Shkmeruli is a traditional Georgian dish of chicken in milk and garlic sauce. It has very few ingredients and can literally be made even at home. The rich flavors of crispy roasted chicken pair excellently well with the creamy garlic sauce, making this a dish to remember.
- Chicken Tabaka:
Popular in Caucasian cuisines, Chicken Tabaka is a delicious pan-fried chicken seasoned with garlic, dressed with traditional Georgian sauces and salts. Crispy on the outside, soft and tender on the inside, this dish is usually served with a generous dose of Tkemali (plum sauce). Chicken Tabaka is the kind of dish you want to eat by yourself, starting with the crispy skin, licking your fingers clean and leaving absolutely nothing behind!
A dish that never disappoints – Georgian Kababi is nothing but grilled minced meat kebabs carefully wrapped in a paper-thin lavash-like bread and sprinkled with sumac and onion slices. It’s a basic dish that no one can ever go wrong with.
A traditional Georgian candy that’s almost always mistaken for candles if seen from a distance or sometimes sausages. Almonds and walnuts are threaded onto a string, dipped in grape juice and dried. You’ll find them everywhere – on the streets, in local markets, outside restaurants. They’re sticky and waxy and sometimes referred to as Georgian Snickers.
- Vino Ice-cream:
You’ve heard of chocolate, vanilla and regular ice cream flavors…but that’s not what you need to try in Georgia. While walking through the streets, keep an eye out for tiny, hole-in-the-wall ice cream parlors that sell nothing but a unique purple colored vino ice cream. Yes, you read that right! Wine and ice cream! With the most authentic flavor of Georgian wine, vino ice cream is worth trying while you’re in Georgia. After all, the country is believed to be the birthplace of wine.
Georgia is known for it’s wines and wine regions. While there are many unique and different wines made from ancient grape varietals, a trip down to Kakheti or a popular wine bar will allow you to taste and learn about the numerous Georgian wine varietals.
A strong drink made of the grape residue left after making wine is called cha-cha. Popularly known as ‘vine vodka,’ this spirit is the preferred choice for celebrations and occasions.