Georgian cuisine

“A traditional Georgian dinner begins with “Borjomi” and ends with the love poem “Suliko””

Friendship and hospitality are important elements within Georgian culture. Traditionally for Georgians, any visitor arriving on the doorstep is a “gift from God” and must be received as such. This usually means that the guest is treated to a Georgian supra (dinner party) to which neighbours and relations are invited. The host brings out bottles of both “Borjomi” and his or her finest wine and a toastmaster is elected to lead the ceremony.

Georgian wines are typically sweeter; one internationally known semi-sweet Georgian wine is Kindzmarauli, described by sommeliers as a “wonderful, red-ripe and amenable wine with a magnificent and fabulous flavour.” If dryer varieties are your preference, then Mukuzani is highly recommended as a dry wine, dark ruby in colour and delicate in taste.

Local cuisine is something of an art; using a little imagination and flair, Georgian cooking turns even the blandest vegetables into home-culinary delights. Jonjoli, for example, is a delicate herb often used in Georgian dishes. It is very particular, being found in only one location (Lechkuma) and, after pickling, must be consumed within two days. Armfuls of more common herbs are also used, such as coriander, tarragon, basil, thyme and mint, which are finely cut and blended into a variety of sauces and condiments.

Cheese is found at every meal in Georgia, both as its own dish or cooked into others, and every region has its own variety. One of the most popular is Imeretian, a soft, creamy cheese blended with mint. In areas such as Teuleti, people favour a gouda-type sheep’s cheese.

For the main dish, a guest in a Georgian household is typically presented with satsivi (turkey stewed in a nutty sauce), lobio (kidney beans in tomato sauce), and hashlama (boiled meat in a variety of dressings, particularly favoured in the area of Kakheti).

All types of meat are cooked throughout the Caucasus, especially beef (in dishes like the fried beef dish bastruma) and lamb (the aromatic lamb stew, buglama). Any visitor to Georgia will become quickly familiar with the national favourite, khinkali - beautifully folded dumplings of finely chopped beef and herbs. They will also encounter kuchmachi (a hot dish of beef giblets fried in oil and spices) and chahohbili (chicken or pheasant stewed in tomato sauce). For meat lovers, the most rewarding dish is shashliks – lamb, beef or pork prepared on skewers or in kets (clay pots).

The best supras will be accompanied by plenty of toasts and dancing throughout, finishing with group singing of the Georgian a capella songs. The sounds are reminiscent of days of old, when the folksongs of Georgia’s brave mountain warriors (dizghits) and beautiful women would echo throughout the valleys. In the small hours of the morning, when it seems the party is in its final throes and the food and drink are gone, the host sets out a fresh cloth, re-lays the table and the meore supra (second table) begins. And so the feast continues as if it had just started…