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Georgia is distinguished in many ways and cuisine is one of them.
Along with Georgian hospitality, the cuisine is something that makes our country unique and memorable, especially for those who visit it for the first time and have a chance to taste Georgian national dishes.
Georgia not only has many types and varieties of cuisine but every region of our country is characterized by its special dishes. If for the West it's more typical the dishes made with vegetables, in the East people prefer dishes made with meat, however, the West is not limited only to vegetable dishes ... absolutely not. The thing is that after mentioning Guria if the first thing that comes up in mind is Ekala Phkhali, in the case of Kakheti it's probably Khashlama and Chakapuli. Otherwise, everyone agrees that dishes from every region of the country, make Georgian cuisine outstanding and delicious.
For locals, whether they are gourmets or not, Georgian cuisine takes first place. Tourists visiting Georgia and tasting Georgian dishes for the first time are especially excited by its cuisine.
As I have already mentioned above, Georgian dishes are characterized by a variety of flavors, however, spicy and bitter tastes are more common in Georgian cuisine, especially in Megrelian.
Yes! In this article, we will introduce you to the Megrelian dishes with precise recipes told by the Megrelian hostess. Along with that, we will try to describe the dishes in such a way to make you want to prepare them. And who knows, maybe they will be as delicious as the ones made by natives.
The article was written with the help of the author's neighbor, Abshilavebi (Megrelian surname). For those who don't know yet, the dishes described in the article and their recipes are authentic as they are told by local housewives.
The major and typical dishes of Megrelian cuisine are:
Ghomi, Sulguni, Sulguni plates with Nadughi, Elarji, Gebzhalia, Megrelian Ajika, Kupati, as well as Megrelian Khachapuri, Satsivi, Kharcho, Mchadi, and many more.
The list of Megrelian dishes does not end here. We have listed only the dishes mostly connected to Megrelians. In general, Megrelian cuisine is distinguished by spicy dishes, and their characteristic and distinctive Ajika sauce. So, we will start presenting Megrelian cuisine with Megrelian Ajika. It is of two types:
Megrelian red ajika and Megrelian green ajika
To prepare Ajika you need the following materials:
Freshly crushed red pepper, garlic, Utskho Suneli, and salt. These materials are ground and bread slices measured by eye are added to them. In order not to make the Ajika too spicy, a little oil is added to it.
Red ajika becomes red because of the red pepper.
As for the slice of bread (mentioned above), it is needed to make the mass solid. After Ajika is ready, it is stored in jars and covered with a screw cap.
Megrelian Ajika goes well with butter and bread, covered with jam, or honey, and served with tea.
I am a Rachvelian and I don't know much about Samegrelo. The fact that Megrelian Ajika is eaten this way, was new for me as for you and if the neighbors give us Ajika, I plan to taste it this way.
Megrelian Green Ajika
The rule for the preparation of green Ajika is similar, except that green pepper is used instead of red pepper. It tastes the same as the red one.
The main dishes of Megrelian cuisine are Ghomi and Suluguni.
In Samegrelo, as usual, guests are served Ghomi at the table first and then different dishes are consumed. Ghomi is served hot on a small plate to enjoy before it cools down. Usually, slices of Sulguni cheese are put in the middle of hot Ghomi.
Ghomi is one of the dishes Megrelians are proud of. Ghomi is eaten in different ways. It is made from coarse cornmeal.
Megrelian housewives wash the cornmeal well at first, so well that there should not be any black parts (these black parts are the centers of corn).
They add cold water to the washed cornmeal and set it to boiling. It takes at least an hour to boil. It is necessary to stir continuously during cooking. When the cornmeal is boiled, it will get thicken. After boiling, the white mass will appear on top of the thickened mixture, in the middle, which means that Ghomi is ready to be mashed. During the mashing, the corn flour is added and mashed again with a wooden spoon. Ghomi should be of medium thickness. Once it is cooked, it should be left in its dish on low heat. Take the spoon, cover the dish and leave it like this. When the surface of Ghomi gets thick that is the sign the dish is ready. Ghomi is served with cheese, mainly Suluguni, as well as Satsivi, Kharcho, and Pkhaleuli. (kohlrabi, cabbage, beet leaf, smilax, etc.)
Ghomi, as we mentioned above, is made from cornmeal, however, probably not many people know that in the past it was made from the plan Foxtail Millet (Georgian Ghomi), "Chkhveri" in Megrelian.
It is possible to grow this plant twice a year in Samegrelo. Ripe plant heads should usually be taken in dry conditions as then it will be difficult to dry them then. In the past, it was kept in a granary and washed twice with a special tool - a large stone mortar. The grains were left outside in windy weather and then stored in special containers. It is such a plant that even if you keep it for years, it won't be eaten by worms.
Compared to cornmeal, it is easier to prepare Ghomi from Foxtail Millet. It has small grains and does not need to be ground. The washed grains are dipped into boiling water and cooked. Previously, Ghomi was prepared only with these grains. According to the elders, porridge was also made from Foxtail Millet grains, mixed with walnuts and honey, and was considered to be extremely tasty.
We mentioned the type of cheese - Sulguni (Suluguni) at the beginning of the article and promised to describe in detail how the Megrelians prepare it.
Suluguni is a type of cheese that is not made as easily and quickly as it may sound.
However, if you can not prepare Sulguni by yourself, you will know at least what procedures it goes through during the preparation.
Suluguni is made from new cheese.
The cheese made in the morning is ready by 4-5 pm to prepare Suluguni. To prepare Sulguni, the cheese must be kept in the heat, especially when it's winter. Before starting to make Suluguni, the cheese should be checked to see if it is ready. It can be checked in the following way, pour cold water into a bowl, and cut a little cheese into thin slices. If the cheese stretches, it means that it is ready to prepare Sulguni.
If it stretches well, cut into thin slices and throw in hot water until boiling. Stir this thinly sliced cheese with a wooden spoon, until slices unite ... the bowl should be on low heat. Then the cheese is picked and moved to another bowl where it should be kneaded and given a shape. It is wrapped as Khinkali, tied like a Chadi. In the end, you should pour cold water on it, add salt and it's ready.
In Samegrelo, Sulguni is also made in smoked form.
For Sulguni to be smoked, it should be salty and hard. It is mainly smoked in a wicker peasant house, or hung on a thread, some put it on aluminum plates ... They light a fire from below and cook for 3-7 days.
Sulguni plates with Nadughi are one of the famous Megrelian dishes.
These are thin, round-shaped plates of Sulguni in the heart of which a Nadughi and mint are wrapped.
Sulguni plates are made by Megrelian housewives while making Sulguni. They take small pieces of ready-made Sulguni and take small parts of it, giving them a rounded shape. They sprinkle salt on top on top of them. The prepared plates are put separately because the Sulguni is still warm and if these plates are stacked on top of each other, they will be stuck together. So the plates must first be cooled. After plates are ready, they are dipped in salty water and stored in the refrigerator. When you decide to prepare Sulguni plates with Nadughi, you will only need to roll Nadughi into these ready-made plates and the dish is ready.
Here we will tell you how to make Nadughi.
Nadughi is boiled whey.
Once the cheese is made, the remaining whey is boiled. The whey should be boiled on high heat at first, and then it should be lowered and the whey should be left at a low temperature. After boiling, it should be cooled. After cooling it is filtrated with gauze and hung to squeeze. It will be ready in one day. Nadughi is moved to a jar and stored in the refrigerator.
Nadughi is not wrapped in Sulguni plates without adding other ingredients. Salt and mint are used as garnish. After it is garnished, it is put in the middle of the Sulguni plates and rolled. The mint is added slightly over the plates.
Nowadays, ready-made Sulguni plates can also be bought in the store. They are a bit larger and can be cut in half. Nadughi is put into the cut plates, rolled up, and it's ready.
The next dish we want to present after Ghomi and Suluguni is - Elarji.
Ghomi with cheese.
To prepare Elarji, we first prepare Ghomi from coarse cornmeal. (While cooking, the mass of Elarji should be much thinner than the mass of Ghomi.)
To prepare Elargi, take just made Sulguni and peel it like a pear in a circle.
When Ghomi is ready, put cheese in it and mix it with a large wooden spoon. The heat should be at a normal level, neither low nor high. During the preparation, you should continuously stir it so that the mixture is whole, then stretches, and it should be placed on plates before it starts to break. Ghomi is served hot. While serving the housewives carry a sharp knife or scissors to cut the Elarji and put it on the plates. Elarji is delicious when it has a lot of cheese. Elarji is eaten separately unlike Ghomi, which is eaten with Satsivi or Kharcho.
The next dish that we would like to introduce to you is Gebzhalia, a favorite and distinctive dish for many.
Gebzhalia is one of the most delicious dishes of Megrelian cuisine.
It is made from cheese. Cheese must be one of the types of Suluguni.
We will now teach you the way a Megrelian housewife prepares it: first, they pound fresh green mint leaves in salt, then they take new cheese and make Sulguni (the preparation of Sulguni is described above).
Once the Sulguni is rolled, the prepared mint is put inside and rolled out or it is even possible to make a plait from them. Sulguni must be hot. When rolling Sulguni must be twisted at the end and then rounded in a circle. Then it is cut into rolls. When the finished Gebzhalia is wrapped in a circle, the mint that is inside it is put on top as well. When the Sulguni juice comes out during the curling, there must be a vessel at the bottom that will be filled with this juice, and then this salty and mint juice will be poured from the top. Gebzhalia is tastier when it's freshly prepared and the Sulguni is still warm than when it's chilled.
Satsivi is one of the famous and delicious dishes many people know about, not only in Georgia but also abroad. Satsivi characteristic meal to Samegrelo and Imereti and Georgia in general.
However, the preparation rule in these two regions is different. In Imereti, people prepare the Satsivi, put the meat in it, and cook it as Kharcho, while the Megrelians make it dry and put the roasted turkey meat inside.
The Satsivi sauce is prepared in the following way: the walnuts are mixed with garlic and various spices; Utskho Suneli, dried coriander, and cloves a bit. This mixture should be kneaded well by hand so that the walnut oil comes out. In Samegrelo, walnut oil is called Urtskuli. First, the roasted turkey meat is put in the bowl, and then Satsivi and walnut oil are poured on top.
To prepare Megrelian Bazhe you will need pounded walnut. Fresh coriander, fresh saffron, green pepper, salt, and walnuts. This mixture is pounded together and thoroughly, to extract the walnut oil. Add pomegranate juice and cold water. You should use whether pomegranate juice or vinegar. In the end, in the Bazhe sauce slices of fried chicken are placed. Bazhe goes well with Ghomi.
Another delicious dish that the Megrelians can be proud of is Kharcho.
Kharcho is made from beef and nuts, although it can also be prepared with chicken and goat meat.
To prepare Kharcho, the beef must be boiled first. While boiling when the water dries out, add margarine or butter, and then fry the chopped onion and garlic in it. When the onion and garlic get fried, add one tablespoon of tomato sauce, mix everything well, cook, and add boiled water. Then add the minced walnuts to the sauce, also add spices: Utskho and Khmeli Suneli, and 1 teaspoon of cornmeal sifted 2 times. Mix it all, add salt and pepper as per taste, and cook until boiling.
Megrelian Kvari (Georgian dumplings) is another famous dish in Samegrelo.
Kvari is made from dough and cheese filling.
To make the dough, the flour and warm water should be kneaded together. It is necessary to add 1 egg to the mixture. After kneading you should let the dough rest. Cut the round shapes out of the dough, put cheese filling in them, and roll them out like khachapuri. Dumplings are dropped in boiling, salted water, and cooked. A characteristic feature of Megrelian Kvari is that its dough should be pretty thick.
The dish is served with buffalo Matsoni.
Mchadi is made from cornmeal and warm water. Once the dough is kneaded it is baked either on Ketsi (Georgian clay and stone pan) in a dry form or baked in a pan with oil.
In Samegrelo big round Ketsi is made. Once the fire is lit and the Ketsi is heated, the large Mchadis are put on it. They will cover it with the special lid on top called Tanaka. Then they pour heated ashes onto Tanaka and hot coals on top. The Ketsi heated on the fire is placed on bricks, while the Mchadi is baked by the hot coals placed on top.
Along with the dry-baked Mchadi, Megrelians also bake fried Mchadi.
To prepare Mchadi you have to add 1 cup and a half of bread or wheat flour to 1 kg of cornflour, add sugar, a little salt, and yeast and knead in warm water.
Let the dough rest until it gets fluffy. Put half a liter of oil in a narrow-bottomed pot. After this oil starts boiling, make small, round balls from this fluffy dough and put them in the heated oil so that it boils inside. While baking, the Mchadis should be covered with oil, so they will be cooked in oil ... As they get reddened and roasted they are ready. This is how Mchadis are baked in Samegrelo.
In the old days, people preferred Mchadis baked-on Ketsi to the fried ones.
By the way, placing walnut, chestnut, and Ekala (Smilax excelsa) leaves on Ketsi and putting Mchadi on them was common in Samegrelo too. The leaves were also placed on top, and ashes and hot coals were put on them. The pan was left like that for the whole night and by the morning it was ready. They knew the exact amount of time needed and the Mchadi would never get burned. The ashes should have been a lot, unlike the coals.
Chvishtari is a Mchadi with cheese filling.
Knead the dough with corn flour and water, add eggs so that they become whole, and knead again. Add salt as per taste. Roll out the Mchadi dough, put the fresh cheese in the middle, roll the dough again from the top, and put it in the oven. After baking, break it and eat it.
The Chivishtari may be cut with a knife before baking so that it can be easily broken.
Megrelians know another different and tasty dish, Lobiani Mchadi.
When baking Mchadi on a Ketsi, Lobiani (a Georgian dish prepared with beans) is put on one layer of the dough and is covered with another layer of Mchadi. Then the leaves are placed on top, and as described above, it's baked in the heat of the ashes and hot coals.
Megrelians also have a sauce made easily and quickly, called Puchkholia.
Puchkholia is called Mchadi soaked in hot milk. Instead of Mchadi Ghomi can also be put. And salt is added for better taste.
Megrelian cuisine is also characterized by a variety of Pkhaleuloba (vegetarian dishes made from plants).
They make Pkhali from beet, cabbage, cauliflower, and Ekala.
To prepare the beet Pkhali, its leaves must be washed, slightly boiled, and scalded. After that, you should pour out the water, mince, and season. Megrelian housewives say that if you want to taste the real taste of Pkhali, you should squish the necessary ingredients in the pestle. It is called Qvinje in Megrelian. In a pestle, salt, pepper, garlic, almonds, and coriander are first mashed thoroughly and then walnuts are added. Beet leaves should be put separately. These spices are mixed in vinegar and then rubbed on the leaves.
After giving a round, ball shape Phkhali is ready for serving. Slightly dip a finger in it and add the walnut oil - Urtskuli. It is garnished with pomegranate seeds. And when it's pomegranate season pomegranate juice is used instead of vinegar.
Cabbage Pkhali is prepared in almost the same way. First, the cabbage leaves are boiled, squeezed, and cooled. It's seasoned in the manner and sequence described above.
Cabbage leaves can be given a beautiful color. To do this, boil the beets, put them in a meat grinder, and add the cabbage and it will get the desired color, pink, lighter or darker if desired.
Everyone’s favorite cauliflower Pkhali is also made in that way. The same is the rules for boiling and seasoning. For coloring, boiled and minced beets are added.
Along with cauliflower Pkhali, Ekala Pkhali is also very popular, not only in Samegrelo but also in Guria. It is made in the same way as the rest of the Pkhali, however, beets are not added to give the color.
I would also like to tell you about the Lobio made by Megrelians.
Once the kidney beans are boiled, pour out the water, and mince them in a meat grinder. Megrelian housewives garnish it with fresh coriander, pepper, garlic, and chopped walnuts. It is necessary to give sourness with vinegar or pomegranate juice. Pound basil is also added. The basil is pounded with the above-mentioned ingredients.
After Megrelian Pkhaleuli, I would like to talk about meat dishes typical for this region.
In Samegrelo, meat dishes are also made, such as Megrelian Kupati, Jurjani, the same Kuchmachi, and others.
It is made from pigs or beef intestines.
The intestines must be taken out well because not all intestines are suitable for the preparation. While the intestine is chosen, it is thoroughly washed, and the prepared Kuchmachi is inserted inside. Then Kupati is put in hot water to straighten and left for about 3-4 minutes, then taken out, and, as we mentioned above, seasoned with the spices. Once Kupati is prepared, it is hung outside and dried. Based on desire, it can be burnt immediately, stored in the refrigerator, or even smoked on a fire.
Here are the instructions for smoking Kupati: the meat is hung on sticks. The fire below them must be constantly lit so that the Kupati gets smoked. Smoked Kupati can also be roasted and eaten that way. It gets fried normally in any kind of oil.
It is made with the intestines of the chicken, pigs, or beef.
First, the intestines are washed thoroughly. They cut them according to their size and wash them in water. Then these intestines are cut in half from the inside and washed thoroughly again. Then put them on a cutting board and scrape off them so that they are well cleaned. After cleaning, you should rinse well again in cold running water and after rinsing while they get cleaned, take these intestines and wash them thoroughly again with bread flour ... Fater that, they are washed with salt ... In general, intestines should be washed so that they don't have any odor. After thorough processing, these intestines are boiled, transferred to a large wooden bowl, and cut into small pieces while hot ... meanwhile, garlic, pepper, savory, and salt are pounded.
Generally, Kuchmachi is made with intestines, heart, liver, and stomach. The spices mixed with vinegar are added to it. The onion should be fried separately and once they start getting a golden color, add it to Kuchmachi, stirring so that the flavors are well distributed and the dish is ready. Kuchmachi is served hot with pomegranate seed at the top.
Kuchmachi is called Jurjani in Megrelian.
We would like to end the conversation about Megrelian cuisine with the famous grape variety in Samegrelo, Ojaleshi.
Ojaleshi grape variety grows in the village of Salkhino, Samegrelo.
It is a dry, red wine and it's hard to drink. So, you can not drink it a lot, but you can taste the dishes mentioned above without any restrictions and enjoy every second spent in Samegrelo.
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