Georgian cuisine refers to the cooking styles and dishes with origins in the nation of Georgia and prepared by Georgian people around the world. The Georgian cuisine is specific to the country, but also contains some influences from the Middle Eastern and European culinary traditions. The cuisine offers a variety of dishes with various herbs and spices. Each historical province of Georgia has its own distinct culinary tradition, such as Megrelian, Kakhetian, and Imeretian cuisines. In addition to various meat dishes, Georgian cuisine also offers a variety of vegetarian meals.
Georgian cuisine uses well familiar products but due to varying proportions of its obligatory ingredients such as walnut, aromatic herbs, garlic, vinegar, red pepper, pomegranate grains, barberries and other spices combined with the traditional secrets of the chef ‘s art the common products do acquire a special taste and aroma, which make Georgian cuisine very popular and unique.
Georgian national cuisine is notable for an abundance of all possible kinds of meat, fish and vegetable hors d’oeuvres, various sorts of cheese, pickles and pungent seasonings, the only ones of their kind.
A guest invited to the Georgian table is first of all offered to eat the golden-brown khachapuri which is a thin pie filled with mildly salted cheese; then he is asked to try lobio (kidney bean) (ripened of fresh green beans) which nearly in every family is cooked according to its own recipes; stewed chicken in a garlic sauce; small river fish ‘tsotskhali’ cooked when it is still still alive; sheat-fish in vinegar with finely chopped fennel; lori, a sort of ham; muzhuzhi, boiled and soaked in vinegar pig’s legs; cheese ‘sulguni’ roasted in butter, pickled aubergines and green tomatoes which are filled with the walnut paste seasoned with vinegar, pomegranate grains and aromatic herbs; the vegetable dish ‘pkhali’ made of finely chopped beet leaves or of spinach mixed with the walnut paste, pomegranate grains and various spices. In East Georgia you will be offered wheaten bread baked on the walls of ‘tone’, which is a large cylinder-like clay oven, resembling a jar, while in West Georgia you will be treated to hot maize scones (Mchadi) baked on clay frying-pans ‘ketsi’.
Lovers of soups will be delighted with the fiery rice and mutton soup ‘kharcho’, the tender chicken soup ‘chikhirtma’ with eggs whipped in vinegar and the transparent light meat broth flavoured with garlic, parsley and fennel.
Even the most experienced gourmand will not be able to resist the savory chizhi-pizhi, pieces of liver and spleen roasted in butter and whipped eggs; crisp chicken ‘tabaka’ served with the pungent sour sauce ‘satsivi’. The famous dishes include the melting-in-the-mouth sturgeon on a spit and sauce; the chicken sauce ‘chakhokhbili’ in a hot tomato and dressing; the Kakhetian dish ‘chakapuli’ made of young lamb in a slightly sour juice of damson, herds and onion; roasted small sausages ‘kupati’ stuffed with finely chopped pork, beef and mutton mixed with red pepper and barberries.
Everyone in Georgia is fond of ‘Khashi’, a broth cooked from beef entrails (legs, stomach, udder, pieces of head, bones) and lavishly seasoned with garlic. There exists quite a just opinion that ‘the onion soup in Paris and the khashi soup in Tbilisi serve the same purpose. They are eaten by the same people - by hard workers to become stronger and by revelers to cure a hangover’. Remember E. Evtushenko’s lines: “Everyone who saws, transports, builds, sweeps the neighboring streets, makes shoes, digs ditches eats khashi in the morning”.
Admirers of Khinkali– a sort of strongly peppered mutton dumplings, a favorite dish with the mountain dwellers of Georgia – keep growing in number. Like everywhere in the Caucasus, mcvadi (shashlik) is very popular in Georgia. Depending on a season, it is made of pork, mutton or spits aubergines stuffed with fat of tail and tomatoes.
The splendor of Georgia cuisine is backed up by famous white and red dry wines, among which anyone choose wine to one’s own taste: ‘Mukhuzani’ with a pleasant bitter taste, golden cool ‘Tetra’ light straw-colored ‘Tsinandali’ with a crystal sourish touch, dark amber-colored slightly astringent ‘Teliani’, ruby-colored ‘Ojaleshi’ with a mildly sweet, emerald-like sparkling ‘Manavi’, garnet-red honey-tasting ‘Kindzmarauli’, and dark ruby-colored velvety ‘Mchadi’, light-green ‘Gurjaani’ dark golden fruity ‘Tibaani’ and many others. If to Georgian wines you add best-brand cognacs, champagne, not to mention remarkable mineral waters and fruit drinks, you can fancy what pleasure Georgian cuisine will to you.
The importance of both food and drink to Georgian culture is best observed during a feast, or supra, when a huge assortment of dishes is prepared, always accompanied by large amounts of wine, and dinner can last for hours. The Georgian table is conducted in a wise manner in accordance with the ancient ritual. The head of the table ‘tamada’ is elected as proposed by the host. The tamada must be a man of humor with ability for improvisation and a philosopher’s wisdom. If there are many guests at the table he appoints assistants who in Georgian are called ‘tolumbashis’. The tamada’s toasts follow one another in a strict never violated order. The guest is obliged to listen attentively to each toast and appreciate the beauty of style and the purport of the words said. If is not allowed to interrupt the tamada when he is saying the toasts. The tamada’s assistants and other guests may only add something to the toast or develop its ideas. If you wish to say a toast, you must by all means have the tamada’s consent or else you will find yourself in an awkward position. This table ritual does not put restraints on the guests but maintains discipline at the table. The feast proceeds among jokes and is accompanied by a dance competition, table songs and music, quotations and aphorisms from the works of poets and writers.