Cottage Abies in Racha
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If you are going to travel to Georgia, then you might know that Svaneti usually takes first place on the list of must-see places. It is located in the northern part of Western Georgia on the southern slopes of the Caucasus Range and is considered the highest populated region in the Caucasus. Svaneti is surrounded by 3000-5000 meters high Caucasus mountains.
The 10 highest peaks of the Caucasus are located in Svaneti, among them are the highest peak of Georgia-Shkhara (5201m), Tetnuldi (4974m), Shota Rustaveli (4960m), Ushba (4710m), Ailama (4525m), Lalveri, Latsga, and others.
Svaneti is divided into Zemo (upper part of Enguri River) and Kvemo Svaneti (upper part of Tskhenistskali River). Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region - includes the territories of historical and geographical regions, Samegrelo and Zemo Svaneti. The administrative center is Mestia. And the area of Racha-Lechkhumi and Kvemo Svaneti includes the parts of territories of the historical and geographical regions of Racha, Lechkhumi, and Svaneti. Administrative-territorial units of Kvemo Svaneti are Lentekhi and Tsageri.
The main river is Enguri. Its tributaries are Adishistchala, Mulkhra, Dolra, Nenskra, Ipari, Khaishura, and others.
These glaciers, peaks, rivers, and Swan towers make the region a picturesque and unforgettable place for travelers, that is attractive in all seasons. It is hard to find the right words to convey the beauty of Svaneti. It is something that you have to see yourself. And while you are in Svaneti, you should taste the famous or little-known dishes that we will introduce to you in this article.
It's not easy to write about Svan dishes when you haven't even been to Svaneti. But don't worry, I promise I will tell you about delicious dishes, which will make you tickle your fingers and arouse your interest.
I don't know if you have already read our article on Meskhetian dishes, but both articles were written based on local women's information. Women living in Lenjeri and the village of Mestia Mulakhi. So both, the dishes and the method of preparation are certain and purely Svan.
Therefore, I will tell you in detail everything I have searched about Svan cuisine. Tasting dishes is indeed better than reading about them but before that, let's take a look!
In the article, we will even offer two versions of some of the Svan dishes, because as in all regions, here as well, one dish may be known and prepared differently in different communities.
First, let's talk about the famous Svan dishes, and then you may discover something new with me.
The most famous Svan dish made from flour is Kubdari. You can taste it anywhere in Georgia, in a restaurant or cafe/bar, but Kubdari prepared locally, in Svaneti, has a completely different, distinctive taste. So obviously you should not leave Svaneti without tasting it.
Today, I will introduce you to the Mestian Kubdari and tell you how it is prepared in the village of Mulakhi.
Kubdari is mainly made from beef (mixed meat can also be used). The meat is finely chopped, and seasoned with onion, garlic, dill, coriander, Utskho Suneli, Cumin Powder, of course, pepper, and salt. When I mention salt I mean Swan salt. Svaneti is the only region that has its seasoned salt, which adds a special taste to any dish or flour product. We can talk about that below, and before that, I nearly went off-topic... I said that the filling made for Kubdari is put in a well-kneaded dough and baked on both sides.
A slightly different Kubdari is made in Lenjeri. For those who don't know, the Lenjeri community is located in Zemo Svaneti, in Mestia municipality, and includes seven villages: Lemsia, Kaeri, Lashtkhveri, Nesguni, Soli, Kashveti, Heshkili. The famous Heshkili Huts are located in this place. Today it is considered one of the famous tourist places, and the photos taken there attract more and more attention.
Well, we were talking about Kubdari...
I was saying that here, in Lenjeri, Kubdari made only with beef is more popular. The meat is finely chopped and seasoned with onion, garlic, pepper, and Swan salt. It must be made without adding herbs. Only Khmeli Suneli is added which makes it very tasty. Wild dill, Gitsruli, also goes well, adding specific flavor to Kubdari.
The second well-known and must-try dish is Chvishtari. Together with Kubdari, it is one of the pride of Svan cuisine. To prepare Chvistari, you will need corn flour, year-old cheese, and salt to taste. Before preparing it, the cheese must be checked first to see if it is suitable for Chvishtari. A piece of cheese is first placed on a hot pan, and if the warmed cheese is stretched, it means the cheese can be used for Chvishtari. The cheese is crumbled in corn flour and kneaded like a cake. The finished balls are placed on walnut leaves, and the second batch of balls is placed on different leaves during frying. Chvishtari made with walnut leaves is considered a Svan delicacy. Chvishtari prepared with millet flour has an even more delicate taste.
Tashmijabi is made from old cheese. Some water is poured into the pan. Then you have to add cheese and when the cheese starts to melt, add flour and salt and boil it until it releases its fat, butter.
It is served hot with bread. This dish is known throughout Svaneti.
I am not sure how well-known the next dish is, as locals told me that some people know it and some people probably haven't even heard about it. I have never heard about it and if you are like me here it is... Shusha or Mertsv, yes, they are words of Svan origin and the name of one dish. In Lenjeri, it is called Shusha, and in Ushguli - Mertsv. This dish is a mixture of boiled potatoes and cheese, more clearly, mashed potatoes and cheese. Cheese needs to be stretchy. First, you have to boil the potatoes and mash them. Boil water in a pot, add salt, and then mix the crushed substance with water and heat it, sprinkle it with cheese, and leave it until it becomes stretchy. It is stirred during preparation. It is served hot. Svan salt goes well with it.
Before I move on to other, more or less well-known dishes of Svan cuisine, I must mention Svan salt, which I have already mentioned several times above. And since I will have to mention it many more times, I think that Svan salt deserves to be presented in this article.
The preparation of Svan salt is known throughout Svaneti, although every family prepares it in its way and everything depends on the taste of the housewife. Despite this, the necessary ingredients in Swan salt are still the same, and here they are Khmeli Suneli, Utskho Suneli, coriander, and dill. These four are a must. Everything should be dry and finely ground or sawed in a hand grinder. Other ingredients are very little finely crushed garlic and a yellow flower. People in Lenjeri also add a little bit of walnut to it.
It is also important which dish you season with the Swan salt.
To Kubdari, together with Svan salt, people also add wild dill, the same as Gitsruli. However, they don't add it to the salt but directly to Kubdari.
And if Svan salt is added to Zishkhorali, then you should also add savory to it.
Svans prepare this dish from hemp seeds. Before preparing the dish, the seeds are powdered in a large mortar and after some time this substance releases oil. There was not a family in Svaneti who did not have this oil.
This oil was distilled separately and used for treatment. For example, for the prevention of cancer, as well as for rashes. It was taken with a spoon.
After distilling oil, the mass remained. This mass was dissolved in cold water and put on low heat. The water should not start to boil. For that snow was added in winter and cold water in summer. This mass rose above on the low heat like a foam, which was removed, seasoned with onion, and salt, and then eaten.
It is even more interesting that if this substance was mixed with cheese for Khachapuri, very delicious Khachapuri was made thanks to its unique taste.
If you remember, I mentioned Ziskhorali above. Now I will introduce you to the method of its preparation, which is so unusual that I could not even imagine it.
In the plural, the dish is called Ziskhora, usually, it is called Ziskhorali.
You might be surprised but Ziskhorali is a dish prepared from pig's blood. After slaughtering the pig, clean blood is taken and mixed with Khmeli Suneli, Utskho Suneli, garlic, coriander, pepper, and salt. The intestines with fat are cut. The substance is stirred well and the filling is made. The prepared mass is put into the intestines, which needs to be washed thoroughly before that. After washing, they turn it over and it is ready to place the filling. These intestines will be cut, one end will be tied with a thread, and they will pour this bloody mixture. Here, it is important to note that the intestine should not be filled. Then the other end will be tied and thrown into the boiling water. It takes about 15-20 minutes to boil. Taken off from boiling water, they are fried in fat on a pan.
Sometimes rice is added to the filling for Zishkhorali, but it’s not common in Mestia.
Ziskhorali is a pure Svan dish known only in Svaneti!
Gherghil is made from boiled beans and potatoes.
Beans should be mashed by hand or ground through a meat grinder. Boiled and mashed beans are also mixed with boiled potatoes. The dish should be neither thick nor thin. Preferably medium thickness. The finished dish is seasoned with spices to taste... green coriander and onion are necessary. Some people cut onion directly into the dish, while others fry it and then add it to the dish. Walnuts can also be added if desired.
The finished dish is nicely placed on a plate and garnished with onions and greens. Gherghil is eaten during a fast. People used to prepare it for funerals.
It should be noted that making Gherghil with boiled potatoes is more common in Lenjeri.
And, in the end, I would like to tell you about Narchvi. Although this is not a dish, this is a cheese preserved according to the Svan tradition. Due to its uniqueness and peculiarity of preparation, you should taste it while visiting Svaneti. The dish is made by adding cheese time by time. It is stored in a container with holes so that it is well-drained from the whey. Narchvi was mainly made when there was little milk and it was not possible to make the cheese. Also, cheese stored in this way was kept well.
This cheese is crushed, sprinkled with salt, and put in a vessel where it will drain from the whey. For those who don't know whey is the liquid separated from the cheese during the ripening process, which should come out as much as possible. This cheese is added more cheese little by little and pressed together.
The cheese prepared that way is called Narchvi. It has a pressed and quark-like substance and is made traditionally, mainly in the lower villages of Svaneti.
I mentioned above that I was gonna introduce this dish at the end, and you may think these are all Svan dishes. But that’s not true. I tried to list the Svan cuisine in such a way as to make it understandable, and I divided dishes into separate groups based on their composition and method of preparation. After the more or less popular Svan dinner dishes, I would like to present to you some Pkhali-type dishes.
In Svaneti, as well as in different parts of Georgia, people love to make Pkhali.
Jintchari (Nettles) in Svan
Chinchari, to say more correctly, Jinchari is made in many places in different ways. In Svaneti they make in the following way:
Fresh Jintchari is collected and boiled in boiling water until it becomes a whole mass. Then the barley flour is added and stirred. Mint goes well with it. Onion leaves, salt, and pepper is also added. The dish turns out to be juicy. By the way, it is good for stomach problems.
One more dish is prepared from the nettles. First, you have to boil them and then add wheat flour. You have to garnish them with mint, green onion, and garlic, which should be added to the dish at the end. A little flour is dissolved in water to thicken the dish. Finally, you have to add salt and pepper. It turns out to be a little juicy. It is eaten with soaked bread.
Pkhali of Goosefoots
Goosefoots are boiled according to the above-described method, drained, and mixed in Matsoni. It is seasoned with all kinds of herbs. It may be off-topic, but I am writing this article on a hot day in July, and after mentioning the Matsoni, I felt how I wanted to taste this cold and rare dish.
You probably have not even heard of the next dish. This is a Svan dish Mesgvla, made by the plant. It mainly grows during the processing of the kitchen garden. These plants are picked, put in boiling water, and boiled. After draining it is seasoned with pepper, salt, and Matsoni.
There is another wonder in Svaneti, and most likely, if you are not a Svan, you have not heard about it. There is such a type of onion - which the Svans call Chagv. It is like a bush. After harvesting, these onions are chopped, mixed with Matsoni, and eaten with bread. It also goes well with Khachapuri cheese.
You might accept me you have heard many new things about Svan dishes. And it’s time to introduce flour-based products that is quite a few and have very interesting taste.
Millet flour is probably not used in any part of Georgia as much as in Svaneti. But this is just my opinion as I have often met it in Svan dishes. For example, it is common in Svaneti to mix millet flour with Khachapuri cheese which turns out a delicious dish. It is called Petvraali.
After crushing the Khachapuri cheese you have to add millet flour to it, sprinkle it with salt, and make balls out of it. It is baked in the dough, without water. It must be noted that Petvraali and Khachapuri are not baked on both sides, unlike other flour-based dishes. Svans have many flour products. We already mentioned Khachapuri made from millet flour above. There is also another dish. Corn flour is sprinkled with cheese and made balls with it. This substance is put in the dough and baked like Khachapuri and Kubdari.
Svan also make balls from cheese and potatoes, and then they put the dough and bake it dry. After baking, they put it in the oven for a while. They spread fat on the pan.
Ltservali is made from fried flour and cheese. They fry flour on a stove, then add cheese, put this mass in a dough, and bake. They add only salt. It is called Ltservali.
If you have heard about Lukvne, don't consider it as Khachapuri. Lukvne is a kind of flour product that is made in different ways:
The first version of Lukvne- This is pre-kneaded corn flour mixed with grated cheese, from which small balls are made, put as fillings in the dough, and baked like khachapuri.
Second version - this is a special onion mixed with grated cheese, the same Chagv, from which the same balls are prepared in the same way and baked.
Third version - this is also grated cheese kneaded in millet flour and baked in the same way.
All these things are prepared separately and in no case together. Such a floury product is called Lukvne in Svaneti. I am not going to finish flour-based products with this. I have brought you the most interesting thing in the end.
As I was told it is a unique and very delicious dish. Kintsaari - this is a flour product baked with beef fat.
It is prepared as follows: beef fat is finely chopped and mixed with cheese. It is seasoned with salt and the same spices that are used in the preparation of Kubdari. Kintsaari is baked like Kartoplari on both sides. Personally, for me, this dish appeared most impressive.
I am not done talking about flour products yet. I still have to introduce you to a lot of things that are made from different types of flour, and it's not like Lukvne, but is a different type of dish.
It is a dish made from barley flour.
To prepare the dish, you have to boil the water first. Before that dissolve the barley flour as starch, and add and mix it to the boiling water. Then add crushed garlic, Swan salt, and pepper and let it boil. The dish should not overflow during boiling. When it finishes boiling, you have to stir it, and that’s it. Lrspek is served hot.
This dish is good during a cold. It causes sweating and the patient will be recovered the next day.
By the way, Ltspek is also made from oat and wheat flour.
In Svaneti, flour-based dishes that mostly include grated cheese and various types of flour are very popular.
This kind of dish is Petvra, which was mostly made for children. Bread and cheese were crushed, mixed, and consumed.
It is also made from millet flour and cheese. It should be kneaded well.
Nebri is known only below Bali ridge, in Becho (Bali ridge divides Svaneti into Zemo (upper) and Kvemo(Lower) Svaneti). It is made from wheat, corn, and barley grains. You have to boil the grains first. Then dry, ground, knead and make balls. Some mix it with cheese.
Bread is crumbled, mixed with grated cheese, salted, put on a plate, and served.
Children often take this dish to school.
The word "pachkhi" itself means "crumbling". If you don't put it together well, it will fall apart. Because of this, some people call it Pachkhi, and they also call it Chkhetvra.
So I am finishing this article with this dish.
In the end, I would add that it is also common in Svaneti to make Tklapi. Tklapi is made from specific types of apples and pears. They also make dried fruit. After that, they grind this dried fruit, knead it and make a dessert for children - it is called "Itskhra".
In Svaneti, blueberries are also used to make tea. I think I'll end my article on Swan cuisine with a cup of blueberry tea.
I hope that your knowledge of Svan dishes has widely broadened and I was able to show you Svaneti from a completely different perspective.
I will be happy by making just a tiny contribution to the promotion of Svan cuisine.
When writing articles, I firmly decide to taste all the dishes I am writing about, when traveling to different parts of Georgia. I recommend you do so.
I will end the article on that and wish you a pleasant and most importantly delicious journey.