Eating out, eating in, and shopping in Georgia

Eating, a national pastime, right after feeding guests..which comes first!

Kupta, a sort of rice and meat soup. The base is a light broth made with beef ground beef. Then, the cooked ground beef is mixed with cooked rice, and made into balls. Into the broth go a good measure of rice also, along with parsley and cilantro, chopped onions, salt, pepper and a mystery spice, suneli…(Turns out, that is turmeric!, also called yellow flower by the Georgians!)The soup is, of course, eaten very hot, with “chotis puri”..

On spices…
One thing is for sure: you will not find cinnamon here! Well, you will find it, but people do not use it, or like it. Or ginger..or other of your “regulars”. But, you will find marigold powder, that seems to spice up everything with walnuts. Correction: I thought it was turmeric, and it is I found out this year , although turmeric is used also..(2013)
For a fantastic explanation, as well as great pics, Georgian Recipes is the best page to read. You will find a great wealth of information on Georgia as well.


It is common to serve a variety of greens, or bitter greens, such as dandelions, simply washed and served on a plate to be eaten folded, and dipped lightly in a communal salt dish. Boloki, or huge radishes, can also be cut and served with those greens. Cooked vegetables are quite unheard of, except for cabbage, combosto, that is served in a variety of ways. Green salads, you will not see either. But you will have grated carrots, mixed with grated beets and cabbage, mixed with mayonnaise.

In the market, or bazari, you will find almost everything. Everyone has his own little stand, and they all compete to sell their stuff.
Some areas are devoted to just fruit et vegetables, whereas others sell from toilet paper to soap, called “barf”…(no kidding! That is the name of the brand!)

The bazari can be just on the sidewalk, outside, as you see on the left, or inside, although it is just a "covered" version of the same, but in a more permanent setting, as seen below.

The bazari is also the place to go to buy jeans, clothes in general, all kinds of products coming from the East, for the most  part. It is a type of "souk", as it is called in Northern Africa. Tiny stands crammed one next to other, and covered with tarps, and all kinds of strange materials. There are several of those in each of the neighborhood in Tbilisi. The government is unfortunately trying to eliminate those and institute "normal" stores. The interest of the government is to be able to regulate the income of these little markets. Most of the vendors go to Turkey, some on a weekly basis, cross the border, which they can do legally, buy cheap products, and go sell them on the bazaris. They may also very well buy those on the newly installed large supermarket. They buy in bulk and resell in individual packs to those who cannot go to the new Carrefour supermarket (read playgrounds and ideas  for thoughts on this topic in my blog).

It is difficult to try to walk in this area when it is full of people, but that is part of the fun. You can expect to pay less than in a regular storefront. Watch your personal items, although I have yet to feel threatened in Georgia. Pretty safe country, if you are not around cars..


In the vegetable areas, you will also find people selling pickled items, such as regular pickles, called “pikuli kitri”, and pickled tomatoes, pickled grasses, pickled peppers, etc. They are sold by the kilo, and shoved into plastic bags for you. No jars to worry about, just plastic pollution..!

The fish here is mainly soft water fish, since it comes from the Black Sea. No shellfish to be had. Besides, you would not want them, since the refrigeration is sometimes a problem. Most Georgians do not eat, nor want to try shellfish. Snails fall in the same category.

So, let’s look at some of the meals, and see what a person could expect to find on his or her plate.
First of all, sausme, or breakfast..
It is usually chai, or tea, mixed with a hefty amount of honey. Then, maybe some p’ap’a, which is a mixture of some grain, whether it is mani papa, cream of wheat, or gherkules, oatmeal, or or vermicellis p'ap'a, bringis p'ap'a, or cream of rice, or gretchkis p'ap'a, which is buckwheat kernels. All of these, except for the gretchka, are cooked in milk, and may contain kishmish, or raisins, comshi, quince or other fruit. It would not be unlikely to find savory dishes on the table, maybe even some spinach! Not so savory early in the morning..

Meals are a mix of all the leftovers in the fridge. It seems like the cooking in Georgia is a constant turnover of food, and no shame is to be had to serve just a couple of tablespoons of food on a plate left from yesterday. The point is to have a great assortment of foods, so that the guests can choose their favorite. Rice and potatoes are served with bread and gretcha, all at once. Usually, a new dish has been made for that meal, and it becomes part of the rotation. I find that awesome. Nothing is thrown out, or waisted.

Dinner can be anytime of the day. Since the goal is to feed people at all times, if a guest is hungry, everything comes out of the fridge again. Or, since it has been allowed to stay on the stove overnight (Argh! Food sanitation is a real issue here..), it is just warmed up.
So, dinner can easily be served 3 times a night. The children eat earlier, and people eat as they arrive home from work or school.
The table is easily set. It consists of a small dessert plate, and a fork. If there is soup, a soup plate is brought full to the table by the hostess, and this for every guest who wants to taste it. A soup spoon is then added. There are few glasses, unless people drink wine. A water drinker is not catered to here, but they can request a glass. A word of warning, it will be filled immediately with something other than water..usually a sweet drink of some sort, such as homemade blackberry juice, or lemonade…or rvino, wine in georgian, usually a home brew, since Georgia is a wonderful country for grapes.
There are rarely any knifes used on the table. A piece of bread is used to push the food around, or to hold it to allow the eater to cut with the fork. Since a lot of food is boiled, it does not require the use of a knife. It does limit the number of dishes in the sink, which is a good idea, since the water can abruptly be turned off at the main by the water dept, and this for several hours.
The BBQs
Called shashliki in georgian, they are a fixture of the life here. They are held, obviously, during the warmer days, but they can be eaten in any restaurant at any time of the year. They are on long skewers called shampuri, and they are made of a variety of meats, whether ground or not. Veal, pork, but never chicken. Shampuri are great for marshmallows around a campfire. Obviously, you are not to say that at all to a Georgian. 
Once cooked in great ovens, they are either piled on a plate after being removed from the skewer, or, if they are made of ground meat, they are put into a piece of lavash, a sort of very flat bread that resembles a square tortilla..The tradition is the slide the meat off the shampuris with a large piece of bread.
The tradition of bbq's in Georgia is very ancient. They always use wood to cook on, never coal or charcoal. All natural ingredients, as always.

March 12th, 2013
As I march my husband to the Orly airport on Saturday, I will weep somewhere in my heart for not going with him this time..The family is just so incredibly nice to me, I miss them so..

So, I haven't mentioned yet the everyday use of a homemade product: the tkhemali sauce Made from green plums and other super ingredients, it goes on like ketchup, and tastes, well...better! I have a Georgian friend who does it with rhubarb, since it has this great tart flavor, too..It can be red, it can be green, kinda like Christmas...
It is a mixture of those non-ripe plums, garlic (niori),salt, coriander (kinzi), dill (k'ama), red hot pepper (tsitzaka) and the magic ingredient: pennyroyal, kondari in Georgian, which is kind of creeping mint. ..
It will keep in the fridge for weeks, and I bet, although I have yet to try, it freezes well too!

Man, makes a person hungry, doesn't it? Time to reach for the shampuri, those super long kebab skewers, on which, by the way, you can skewer entire eggplant (badridjan), or peppers (tsitzaka bulgaria) or tomatoes (pamidori) and place them directly in the fire, as seen below..

..then you make your kababi, like our lovely Armenian friend Robert does here and the shashlik can start!

A hefty dose of Khinkali(upper left), wine in the pitcher, bread (shotis puri) to the right, and msvadi on shampuri skewers, cheese in the front and on the bottom left, the typical tremali sauce, made with sour plums in the spring. The party can start!

Let's talk cheese, here..
They say here that they have all kinds of cheese..mmmmm....more like degrees of saltiness in the same cheese. 
Sulguni cheese is used to fill khatchapuri or cheese khinkali, and is really pretty salty. It is made of cow's milk. Apparently, cheese from sheep's/ewe milk is also made but it is not the cheese of choice. It is called....Gooda!

This French girl is slightly jonesing in the Republic of Georgia, to be sure..cheese country, it is not..

And you will say, what is this picture of carb loveliness?
This is called bulki, or bulkebi, since there are 2!
This little baboushka makes them and sells them by announcing " bulki, bulkebi ak aris", or simply "The bulki are here!"
They are very light, similar to an airy challah bread, but with less eggs. The top is brushed with butter and a mix of superfine sugar and flour is sprinkled on top. 
Most appreciated at 9 in the morning, with a "nalekiani khava", or georgian coffee. 
Our little lady started peddling her bulkebi in 1995, to get an income when times were hard. They are still hard.. How this little lady carries her bulkebi from street to street, day in, and day out? Who knows? She doesn't miss a day. 

Carbs are your friends in Georgia...

It depends on what you want to buy, of course. If it is food, go to the bazari. If it is luxury stuff, walk Aghmashenebeli Street downtown. If it is everyday stuff, walk 10 meters. Surely, you will find someone who will sell it to you. I am always amazed at the number of little convenience stores everywhere. 

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