When in Georgia (not the state), you should ask for a serving of khinkali. The name may not sound mouth-watering to a Western ear but khinkali will definitely not disappoint. When eating and drinking in Georgia, khinkali is just one of the many local foods that you will hear, taste and enjoy for sure.
A khinkali is a dumpling that you eat only using your bare hands. And that’s not just for fun but also for practical reasons since cutting it with a knife will spill the delicious juice all over the place. It’s filled with all sorts of good stuff: spiced beef or pork, greens, onions, black pepper, and garlic. The juice is from the meat and it is very, very tasty.
With your first bite, make sure to suck the juice so that the rest of your dumpling won’t burst. Each dumpling has a kudi or the hard knot on top and this is where you should hold to bite the rest of the parts. You’re not supposed to eat the kudi but keep it on your plate for people to see how many dumplings you have eaten. Georgians love to down their khinkali with the local Kazbegi beer. You should try it.
Other funny sounding but equally delicious local foods are the chakapuli (braised lamb chops traditionally served on Easter), shkmeruli (roasted chicken), chikhirtma (vegetarian soup with greens, onions, parsley, and lemon juice), satsivi (walnut sauce to dip your bread in), and khachapuri (cheese pie). You should definitely try khachapuri because it seems to be the favorite of foreigners. They call it the Georgian pizza.
But what is great food without amazing drink to down it with? Get ready to try locally produced Georgian drinks.
Many historians and wine lovers believe that Georgia was the birthplace of wine, which is why the country is commonly referred to as the “Cradle of Wine”. Archeologists say that early Georgians have been making and enjoying their wine way back in 5000 BC. Today, Georgia boasts of producing some of the best wines in the world. The most popular red wine varieties are the Saperavi, Mukuzani, and semi-sweet Khvanchkara. The white wines are the Tsinandali, Kakheti and Tbilisuri.
The country also produces its own beer ever since it gained its independence from the defunct Soviet Union in 1991. There are more than five local brands but the most famous is Kazbegi Beer. Georgians also love their imported beers such as Heineken, Lowenbrau and Guinness.
Finally, to make the most of your dining and drinking experience in the country, you should ask for a bottle of chacha. It is a tangy home-brewed fruit drink, usually from grape leftovers when making wine. Some make use of tangerine, fig, orange, or mulberry to produce a variety of tastes. Chacha actually refers to any home-made spirit made of fruits. The only downside with a tasty bottle is that you have to purchase it in back alleys, basements or corner markets since it is not sold commercially in supermarkets. However you do it, get a bottle of chacha to complete an authentic experience in eating and drinking in Georgia.