Exploring the Cultural Significance of Georgian Food

06/02/2024

Georgian food has evolved drastically over the years and, along the way, has picked up many influences. From an agricultural diet mainly consisting of plants and grains, Georgian food has changed and adapted just as much as Georgian culture has. We explore a range of popular Georgian dishes and find out more about them. Some have specific cultural significance, while others are borne out of necessity.

Fresh fruit and meat at a Georgian market.
Fresh fruit and meat at a Georgian market.

Khachapuri

If you’ve ever enjoyed a cob loaf at your local pub, you might be surprised to find that one of Georgia’s most popular local foods is very similar. In very simple terms, Khachapuri is bread that’s leavened and allowed to rise, forming any variety of shapes. Typically, the bread will be moulded so that the centre is like a large empty dish.

This part sounds simple enough, but what differentiates one khachapuri from another is what goes in the centre. All khachapuris are filled with some kind of cheese and egg mixture, but many different varieties include various local ingredients to give it a special touch.

If this sounds delicious, you’ll fit right in when you travel Georgia. Khachapuri is the country’s national dish, and although the specific origins are unknown, most experts date its existence back to the 12th century. Some forms of the dish resemble pizza, leading to some referring to khachapuri as a ‘cousin of pizza’.

If you’re on a foodie’s journey through Georgia, you’ll be able to try all different types of khachapuri, served as street food or in restaurants.

Lobio

In Georgian, the word ‘lobio’ simply means beans. Everywhere you go while travelling Georgia, you can expect to see a lot of bean-based dishes on the menu. One of the more popular methods involves mashing dark red kidney beans with garlic, onion, coriander, vinegar, walnuts, marigold petals and chilli pepper. The dish marinates overnight and is served cold. This version is known as lobio nigozit.

There are many other variants, and Georgians love using beans in their recipes. The most traditional versions of lobio are cooked in a clay pot. For many years, clay pots were used widely in Georgian cooking, and the process is still popular today.

Meshkuri Khinkali

Khinkali is another of Georgia’s favourite dishes. It is a type of dumpling made from twisting pieces of dough stuffed with various meats, fish or vegetables. Much like a lot of Georgian staples, Khinkali is different depending on its region of origin, with most of them favouring local fillings that were easily accessible.

One of the more interesting variations is meshkuri khinkali, which comes from the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, where goose is a popular local dish. As such, meshkuri khinkali is filled with goose meat, just like soups and other popular dishes in the region.

For a local tip, don’t be tempted to use your usual dining utensils with khinkali. Georgians consider the juice inside to be an important part of the taste, so eating this dish with bare hands is preferred. Cutting or piercing the dough can spill the juice inside, wasting many of the delicious flavours.

Khinkali is made of twisted knobs of dough, stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables and spices.
Khinkali is made of twisted knobs of dough, stuffed with meat, fish or vegetables and spices.

Chakapuli

Another popular dish all over Georgia is chakapuli. It’s a Georgian soup with a selection of meats and herbs, with a common version using plums as an abundant natural resource. You typically prepare this dish by combining plums or a plum sauce with lamb, onions and a mixture of herbs and spices. Plenty of variations use beef or mushrooms as an alternative.

It may sound like a simple dish, but each regional version includes slightly different ingredients. Those ingredients reflect Georgia’s agricultural history, because most local chakapuli dishes feature whatever could be grown or sourced easily back in farming times.

So, as you journey through the rich countryside of Georgia, you can expect to try many different types of chakapuli. Each dish gives you an insight into the region’s background, and you’ll probably notice that certain ingredients feature in other local cuisine.

Georgian wine

There are many popular wine regions throughout Georgia, but one specific winemaking technique stands out from the rest. The ancient Kvevri wine making technique has been added to the UNESCO list of intangible cultural heritage.

Kvevri is the name that refers to large earthenware pots, usually egg-shaped and featuring no handles. In this traditional method, the pots are either buried below ground or set into the floor of a cellar. The wine is left to ferment and age in kvevri pots, and a specific technique must be followed to adhere to the ancient kvevri process. It is thought that the wine is generally ready in around 5-6 months.

Georgia is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world.
Georgia is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world.

If you’d like to try wine so good that its manufacturing method is on a world heritage list, then it’s time to book yourself an unforgettable adventure in Georgia. Crooked Compass has a selection of Georgian experiences available, and we’d love to share them with you. Contact us today to find out more.