Iago’s Winery, Chardakhi
It’s late afternoon and we’ve arrived at Iago’s Winery in Chardakhi which is a short 45-minute drive from Tbilisi. Within minutes of arriving we find ourselves outside on a shady terrace underneath wine vines having a demonstration on how to make Khinkali by one of the ladies from the kitchen. It’s a skill that is not easy for us to master, Ishita likens the pleating process to similar to that used to put a sari on, whilst I try and remember how I was shown how to make Dimsum at a few classes I’ve been to in Dubai. We’re not particularly good! It takes time for us to master the skill and there are a ton of laughs as we learn. At one point we ask our driver to have a go, seems he’s game for a laugh and both he and our guide for the day, Maka, both have a go. Finally after much laughing, a few translated conversations and many smiles, we are done and a plateful of Khinkali is completed.
We all agree that we are not destined for a career in Khinkali making and are full of admiration for the lady who showed us how to make them.
Making Khinkali al-fresco
Firstly the dough is rolled out into small thin rounds of dough. The dough is made from flour, eggs, and warm water and kneaded until firm, thankfully this has been done before we arrive, otherwise, I fear we would be eating after dark.
Once rolled the filling is added, in our case, it’s very traditional filling, a mixture of minced beef and pork with some herbs and seasoning and that’s it (sometimes broth is added to make it juicier).
Place a small spoonful of the filling in the middle of the dough round and then pull the dough up and start pleating the dough together using your thumbs and index fingers until the pleats meet and the parcel is sealed (it sounds much easier than it is in practice).
Once the parcel is sealed, you tightly press the dough at the top together to ensure it’s fully sealed, before removing the excess dough by pinching it off. A quick twist of the pleat ensures there is no leakage and just for a final touch we are told we should be able to drop the dough onto the table from a height, this causes some laughter but thankfully all of our dumplings make it and they are taken away to be cooked.
Cooking is a quick process, the dumplings are placed in a large saucepan full of boiling salted water and cooked for about 12 to 14 minutes then served immediately to be eagerly slurped and devoured.
We dine on our Khinkali on the terrace overlooking the gardens and some young grapevines. Chickens are roaming freely and it’s a perfect day. We have a few glasses of wine and some Chacha (a Georgian pomace brand) and a table full of Georgian food, what more could we ask for? The wine is stunning (more of that in another post), and the dumplings are gorgeous cushions of soft dough encasing a treasure of hot well-seasoned meat and full of juices for us to slurp on.
These are the best Khinkali we’ve had all of our trip, beautiful in their simplicity, made with love we are tasting Georgia at it’s best.
A Georgian Breakfast
It’s the first day of our trip to Georgia and we are in the lobby of our hotel in Tbilisi waiting to check in. Having landed at 4.50 am (oh the joys of twilight hour flying), we managed to make a quick exit from the airport and arrived in the lobby of our hotel by 6 am. The staff, inform us that they will try and get us into a room by 9 am if at all possible which is great as we are not technically due to check in until 3 pm. After drinking a coffee in the opulent lobby, it’s now 7 am and we are hungry. Not fancying a hotel breakfast, we take the advice of the doorman David and head down the street to Samikitno Tavisupleba in search of a Georgian breakfast. David it seems is quite a foodie, and his knowledge of places to eat helps us a lot during our few days in Georgia.
We arrive at Samikitno Tavisupleba at about 7.30 am and it’s packed already with a group of forty or so people already eating, which is always a good sign.
The menu is huge, there are some continental breakfast options, eggs and sausages and the like, but thankfully David has come to our rescue again, telling us we should order Acharuli Khachapuri a cheese pie which comes complete with a runny egg and a knob of melting butter. We’re also curious about other items on the menu and choose Kubdari which is a Shanetian Beef Pie as well as Khinkali with Crabmeat.
The Acharuli Khachapuri is my favorite. After making hand gestures with the waiter, to figure out how big small, medium and large is we settle for medium, which to be honest is enough to feed two people on its own. I love this dish, the dough is crispy on the outside yet soft inside, the cheese is salty and oozing across the plate, whilst the egg is runny and adds another level of richness to the dish, the final moment of glory comes with a knob of melting butter which though technically not needed, adds a further depth to the dish and no doubt another few hundred calories. For dieters this is not, but oh wow does it deliver a punch in terms of hitting my taste buds and making them sigh. My dining companion, Ishita is not so keen, the cheese is too salty for her, she prefers the Beef Pie, which is good as it’s not a favorite of mine, there’s nothing wrong with it at all, the dough is crispy, the beef is tasty, it’s just not my thing, so I’m happy to leave Ishita to enjoy this whilst I chow down on the Khachapuri.
Just when we are sated and full, the waiter brings out hot steaming Khinkali they are dumpling like and filled with crab, we’ve chosen a meat-free option and this is one is quite Asian in taste, we slurp on the juicy inside and taste ginger, and lemongrass. Alas, we don’t manage to do justice to the four fat Khinkali which are on our plate, whilst the inside is delicious and moist, the outside is thick, a bit rubbery and slippery which is not to our taste.
Khinkali : are a Georgian Dumpling traditionally filled with spiced meat (beef, pork, or lamb) along with herbs, onions, and garlic. Non-meat options are made with cheese, potato or mushroom.
Khinkali are eaten plain (preferably with your hands as the use of cutlery is frowned on), but that’s tricky as they are usually piping hot. Best eaten hot just with ground black pepper it’s usual to first suck out the juices and then eat the rest of the dumpling, but leaving the thicker pleated part of the dumping. Since the meat is cooked raw, it generates its own juices which are trapped inside the dumpling given you a gorgeous spoonful of juices when you bit into the Khinkali. To make them even juicer still sometimes warm water or a broth is added to the meat.
Tip | Leftover Khinkali are often fried and eaten hot and crispy which sounds like a little pillow of crunchy heaven to me, a must try for my next visit