Georgian cuisine is as diverse as its landscape. Each region of the country has its own meals or its own take on popular dishes like Khachapuri, the pizza-like cheese pie. Khinkali, is a national meal of Georgia and an absolute must-try once here.
Khinkali is a meat dumpling that originated in the mountainous regions of Pshavi, Khevsureti, and Mtiuleti. It later spread all across the country, resulting in different varieties.
The initial recipe, khevsuruli, calls for minced meat (a mixture of pork and beef or lamb), chili pepper, onions, cumin, and salt. You’ll notice another version of Khinkali in the restaurants, called kalakuri (in English it translates as “the city version”). It includes fresh herbs such as cilantro and parsley. Today, many restaurants also make it with mushrooms, spinach, cheese, potatoes, cottage cheese, and even seafood.
Many of the venues now use special machines and equipment to knead the dough and wrap Khinkali. Back in the day, everything was made by hands, giving it even more authentic and delicious taste. Unfortunately, today, restaurants rarely serve Khinkali with lamb filling. Thus, the best place to try real, genuine meal is still in the mountains – Khevsureti or Tusheti.
When assembling Khinkali, meat is uncooked. Raw pieces are placed in a big saucepan of boiling water. When cooked, the meat releases juice inside the dough.
Khinkali is eaten plain with bare hands with or without black pepper topped after serving. First, you need to take a small bite in order to suck the juice out and then continue eating it as normal. It’s said that a person is a good Khinkali-eater if he/she doesn’t spill one single drop of the juice on the plate. The top part, called kuchi (stomach in English) isn’t supposed to be eaten and is placed on a plate for counting.
If you feel uncomfortable eating Khinkali with your bare hands, you can first try to put a fork in the top part and hold it with the other hand. However, never use any utensils in the mountainous regions, it’s considered to be impolite.
Where to Eat Best Khinkali in Tbilisi
Zodiaqo or Zodiac in English is a newly opened restaurant in Tbilisi. It’s a branch of the restaurant in Telavi, Kakheti. They serve different types of Khinkali and staples of Georgian cuisine like mtsvadi, tomato and cucumber salad with walnuts, and local cheese plate. Khinkali pieces are quite big and full of meat. They also have Khinkali filled with nadughi (ricotta-like dairy product). Unlike other restaurants, the stuffing is pretty good.
This is probably the only place in town where you can try lamb Khinkali. Moreover, they make their dough entirely by hand, resulting in fluffiest, a bit smaller, and stickier Khinkali. Also, they also have a mushroom, potato, and cheese varieties if you prefer a vegetarian version.
HB or Hofbrauhaus is another famous restaurant chain which serves very good Khinkali and an imported German beer. The interior is designed in German style with decor items typical of Bavaria. The menu also includes meals from both countries.
Pasanauri is a restaurant chain, offering various meals from Georgian cuisine. According to many locals, it serves one of the best Khinkali in town. The interior features wooden tables and chairs, black and white images of old Tbilisi hang on the walls. Their chain on Maidan Square works 24 hours, so you can always come here at any time of the day. But, due to the fact that it’s in the touristy area, it’s mostly packed during the day.
Beer Time, located in Saburtalo district, a bit far from the city center, is another good choice for Khinkali-crawl. It’s an ideal place for beer lovers with plenty of options of imported and local beverage. Like any other Khinkali-serving restaurant, the varieties here are typical – Khevsuruli, Kalakuri, and vegetarian options.
And of course we highly suggest joining the collaboration tour with Forktown Tours and Kargi Gogo from Portland to have a wonderful foodie experience in Georgia where you can learn to make real khinkali.
Or come on a Taste Georgia food tour in Tbilisi!http://www.tastegeorgia.co