Trying local cuisine and delicacies is a big part of any trip. The more authentic dishes you taste in a particular location, the more you understand the country, and the more you start to like or dislike it. Just like anywhere, Georgia offers quite a few dishes and drinks that are authentic to the state and you might not see anywhere else.
Ajika is a Georgian-Abkhaz spicy dip often used to flavor food. The name in the Abkhaz language means ‘salt’. Traditional Abkhazian ajika calls for boiled red peppers, herbs, garlic, salt, walnuts, and spices like dill, coriander, and blue fenugreek. However, the dip is used in other parts of the country, where they have slightly modified the recipe. Even though tomatoes are not used in the traditional ajika, some manufacturers and families do use them or tomato paste in their recipes.
Ajika can be red and green. The latter is made from green, unripe peppers and the consistency of both dips resembles a pesto sauce. The paste is widely available in small convenient shops, supermarkets, and bazaars across the country.
Tkemali is another sauce widely used in every Georgian family. This unique sauce is made from a plum-like, very sour fruit with the same name as the sauce – Tkemali. Many Georgians prefer it over the ketchup. Similar to ajika, Tkemali can be of different colors depending on the fruit used in the recipe; it can be red, yellow, or light green. Some companies even make a sweet version of Tkemali. The sauce is commonly used with pan fried potatoes.
This candle-shaped, weird looking dessert is called Churchkhela. It’s made from grape must, nuts or walnuts, and a flour. The nuts are first roasted for a bit, then put on a thread and hung to dry for a couple of days. Afterwards, it is dipped in grape must and hung again for drying, which leads to its shape.
Churchkhela is quite sweet and filling. It’s an excellent snack to keep you energized for a long hike up in nature.
Sulguni is a far saltier relative to Italian mozzarella. The cheese is widely used in many dishes in Georgian cuisine. The texture is soft, a bit milky, elastic and salty. It goes well with the cornbread called mchadi, or ghomi, a corn mill dish. These combinations have been made for each other. Besides the typical sulguni, there’s a smoked one available in all shops and markets across the country.
Matsoni is another dairy product typical of Georgia. It’s similar to plain yogurt but has a different texture and taste. Made from fermented milk, Matsoni is low in calories and great for digestion problems. This one is also widely available in any store. However, the best Matsoni is the one sold by the farmers at bazaars.
Jonjoli is another dish you might not have seen anywhere else. It is a marinated flower plant from the Staphyleaceae family and another staple of Georgian cuisine, seasoned with onions and oil.
The most rural region of Georgia, Svaneti, has its own salt that makes every meal so different and delicious. Svanetians use kosher salt as the base and spice it up with pepper, garlic, dill, coriander, Satureja, blue fenugreek, and cumin. All the ingredients are perfectly mashed in a pestle and mortar before storing in the container.