Food in Georgia
Types of places to eat
- regular dining establishment (more expensive)
- restaurant (sasadilo) – cafeteria-style diner that may be more delicious and less expensive than restaurants
- cafe, street-food
- beer bar, pub (ludis-bari)
- sakhinkle (სახინკლე) – locations specifically for khinkali, where other foods may also be found
- sapurmari – meeting spots in nature, where a stranger or foreigner may be readily welcomed
It’s not like you’re accustomed to eating dumplings when you eat khinkali. First and foremost, you just use your hands. (There is a legitimate reason for this; cutting the big dumpling would spill the liquid and spoil the flavor.) The dumplings will be seasoned with pepper first, according to the locals. Then, grasp the dumpling whichever you like, from the top “handle” if you want, and suck up the liquid with a tiny bite off of the side. If you spill any juice on your plate, you’ll receive a smear on your chin. Then, while still holding the khinkali, eat around the top, completing the dumpling and then putting the twisted top on your plate—eating the doughy top is considered an extreme sign of poverty in finances and taste. It’s also great to look back with pride on all your shirts after you’ve gotten into the double digits with these dumplings. Drink them with wine, Kazbegi beer, or a “limonati” of your choice (the most popular flavors are lemon, pear, and estragon/tarragon, which is very refreshing).
Georgian food is well-known across the former Soviet Union (visitors to Moscow will have noticed the amount of Georgian restaurants). Khachapuri (a cheese-filled bread that resembles a cheese pie) and khinkali are two popular national foods (minced, spiced meat in a dumpling, served in enormous quantities). While khachapuri is given with every meal (and it is easy to grow weary of it), khinkali is typically served as a separate meal, with Georgian men devouring 15 enormous dumplings as if it were nothing.
Mtsvadi, grilled marinated pig or veal on a stick with onions, is another popular dish. But this is far from the end of the number of delectable meals flavored with garlic, coriander, walnuts, and dill. A typical Georgian feast (above) is a sight to see, with a spread that no party could possibly complete and at least 20 toasts made to wine or brandy. Another trend of lamb-based meals (chanakhi, chakapuli) is absolutely delectable.
For a fast snack, try any of the ghvezeli pastries filled with meat, potatoes, cheese, or other ingredients, which are often offered in markets and on the side of the road. However, be wary of western-style meals (pizzas, hamburgers, etc.), which are generally a weak imitation of their real selves. It is much preferable to sample native cuisine.
The fruit and veggies here are bursting at the seams with taste and are very affordable. Even if you just speak English and stick out like a slug in a spotlight as a foreigner, you can buy fruit and veggies at the market for a fraction of the price you would spend in, say, Western Europe. A fast lunch of tomatoes, fresh cheese, puri (bread), and fruit is perhaps the most satisfying meal in the nation.
There are a number of vegetarian meals (mainly in western Georgia) that are surprisingly delicious and go well with most local gatherings that include a lot of wine drinking. Try to get your hands on ajapsandali, a delicious vegetable ratatouille prepared uniquely according to each family’s recipe.
If possible, attempt to be invited to someone’s house for supper (this is not too difficult in Georgia, owing to their hospitality and general desire to stuff foreign visitors full of all the food they can afford). Restaurant cuisine is an unusual set piece with the same foods again and over. Georgian cuisine, on the other hand, is much richer and offers an infinite variety of dishes to taste, all made from scratch using fresh, locally produced ingredients (although supermarkets are now spreading throughout Georgia).
Drinks in Georgia
Chacha (ჭაჭა) is a fruit-based distilled clear spirit (liquor) produced at home, similar to Italian grappa. Chacha is a wine produced from grape pomace (grape residue left after making wine). It may also be made from unripe or uncultured grapes, as well as fig, tangerine, orange, or mulberry in certain instances. It is typically “manually” bottled. It may be found at Mom and Pop corner stores, Farmers Markets, back alleyways, and basements all throughout Georgia. There is also commercially produced chacha available in certain stores and supermarkets. In Georgia, the word “Chacha” refers to any kind of “moonshine” produced from fruits.
Georgia has one of the world’s oldest wine-making traditions and has been dubbed the “Cradle of Wine” owing to archaeological discoveries that date wine production back to 5000 BC. As a result, Georgians produce some of the world’s finest wines. Georgian wine competes with French and Italian wines due to its historic winemaking history and exceptional environment. Georgian wine is a must-try. Unfortunately, you are not permitted to export home-bottled wine, which is often the finest. Georgian wines are very well-known. It’s true that Georgian wines are poorly recognized in the West, but that doesn’t include the 280 million people who live in the former Soviet Union, where they’re a welcome drink at every table.
- Saperavi (საფერავი sah-peh-rah-vee)
- Mukuzani (მუკუზანი moo-k’oo-zah-nee)
- Khvanchkara (ხვანჭკარა khvahnch-k’ah-rah) – semi-sweet
- Kindzmarauli (კინძმარაული keendz-mah-rah-oo-lee) – semi-sweet
- Tsinandali (წინანდალი ts’ee-nahn-dah-lee)
- Kakheti (კახეთი k’ah-kheh-tee)
- Tbilisuri (თბილისური tbee-lee-soo-ree)
The Russian government has prohibited the import of Georgian wine and mineral water due to political tensions between the two countries.
Georgia is producing an increasing variety of local beers. Since ancient times, the hilly areas of Khevsureti and Tusheti have had a beer culture. Following its independence from the Soviet Union, Georgia resurrected its beer industry and brought high-quality beers to the market. Kazbegi was Georgia’s first and most popular beer. Georgian beer manufacturing is still expanding today, with high-quality beers on the market (thanks to the high quality mountain spring waters in Georgia and to German designed beer factories). There are also numerous international beers available, like Heineken, Bitburger, Lowenbrau, Guinness, and others.
- Bavariis Herzogi
- Kazbegi (ყაზბეგი q’ahz-beh-gee)
Georgian mineral waters offer distinct and intriguing flavors that are distinct from those found in France and Italy. Borjomi (bohr-joh-mee), Likani (lick-ah-nee), and Nabeglavi (nah-beh-ghlah-vee) are the most well-known Georgian mineral waters. However, there are a multitude of lesser-known springs situated in tiny towns and beside highways throughout the nation that are worth seeing. Borjomi is not ordinary sparkling water; it has a high level of fluoride, and it may take some time to get accustomed to the taste. It is, nevertheless, very popular outside of Georgia (in the former Soviet republics).
Lagidze Waters (Soft Drink)
Mitrofan Lagidze (lah-ghee-dzeh) is the surname of a well-known Georgian merchant from the nineteenth century who manufactured popular soft beverages in Georgia. These waters are now known as “the Lagidze Waters.” Lagidze soft drinks are produced entirely of natural fruit components, with no artificial sugars, chemicals, or other additions. Estragon/tarragon and cream&chocolate are the most popular flavors. They are available in bottled form at shops.