Georgian Eats (Part II)
In continuation of my previous Georgian Eats, I thought I would add some popular items found across the country.
Ok, so this dish isn’t solely Georgian, per se. But since it's on virtually every menu at every Georgian restaurant in Tbilisi (and others), I’m including it. It really is a dish that hasn't changed in a few thousand years. Because of its simplicity, it has some variation in almost every country, and in most ethnicities within those countries they prepare it slightly differently or with a particular sauce, side, etc...
The idea is simply a cleaned trout (or any other river or sea fish really) doused in salt and fried in oil till golden brown. If you want to be really old school, use a fish sauce or garum instead of salt, as this is most likely what an ancient Georgian would have used, influenced by Romans. Typically, it is served here with a pomegranate sauce that is viscous and sweet/tart in flavor. Some more Western palettes may not find it so tasty, but I find it absolutely delectable. Of course, simply adding a little finishing salt or garum never hurts when eating it either.
This is another Georgian staple. Anyone who has googled, visited, or basically thought of Georgia has seen this dish. It comes in a variety of styles and can be found in everything from a village street-side bakery to an upscale boutique restaurant in Tbilisi. Essentially this dish IS Georgia.
The most commonly found variation of this dish found in streetside bakeries is similar to the lobiani dish from Part I. It is Khacha cheese and some butter wrapped in that same puff pastry. The Khacha cheese is this crumbly, salty, bold flavored cheese that looks similar to goat cheese. It is an acquired taste on its own, but with some butter and pastry to settle its intensity it is an amazing treat while walking through the streets or taking a rest in a park.
The most popular restaurant variety is what is called Adjaruli Khachapuri. This bad boy is a serious feast, even for a party of 3 or 4. It is a light doughy boat-shaped container with the Khacha, and sometimes other cheeses added, a slab of butter, and a raw egg to top it off. It is served piping hot, and requires a member of the consuming party to break of a tip of the bread boat and stir in the egg and butter. The butter melts and the egg cooks, creating this cheesy, eggy, buttery mixture that makes for a supreme meal on its own. While certainly a diet breaker, it’s well worth the sacrifice.
Other variants include Imeruli, Royal, and Megruli although many food experts even say there’s up to 53 different types served around the region. If there’s anything one should partake upon visiting this nation, it's this amazing dish, diets be damned.
Chvishtari & Mchadi
Cornmeal is found all over the modern world, and their use has broad applications. Georgians have used this for Mchadi and Chvishtari, a local cornbread style dish that is a popular side item or travel snack.
Mchadi is simply an ovular patty of this cornmeal mixture, which varies about as much as there are people making it. It's fried and served hot. Chvishtari is the same concoction, but with sulguni cheese mixed in, or a slide of it placed inside the center fold. When served hot, these are an amazing small, easy to make, and even filling dish.
As it is basically a flatter cornbread, it is also used with sauces and other food items. It can be made flatter and with sautéed vegetables, cream or cheese sauces, and even with a slice of meat. The possibilities are endless and only limited by your imagination (or what you have in your kitchen).
Fried Trout with Pomegranate Sauce, Olives, and Parsley