Delicacies of the South Caucasus
The South Caucasus is a fascinating place to travel (Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan - the countries south of the Caucasus mountain range). Stunning mountain vistas, two great lakes (wrongly called Seas - the Black and the Caspian), bustling cities full of history and character. Tales of conquest, conquer and of Russian/Soviet influence.
They are all wonderful places to visit and they are fiercely proud of their own culinary identities. For good reason: the food in this region is delicious! This blog is about just that.
Our first stop after journeying through the Balkans and Turkey was Georgia. We took buses and taxis from the Turkish city of Kars to Batumi - the bustling centre of Georgian nightlife on the Caspian Sea.
Excellent start! As we moved away from the coast into regional Georgia, we set our sites on some of their specialities. This is khinkali - a tasty little dumpling stuffed with meat and broth.
The technique is to hold the twisted end & nibble off a corner. Then slurp the broth before devouring the rest, leaving the twisted end for the dogs.
A tasty snack!
Walnuts are everywhere in Georgia and they make their way into the national cuisine in many guises. Personally, I thought the paste/spread was ok...but the soup was odd.
So that was less delicious, more interesting. Up next though, an absolute delight and, for me, the best thing about Georgia cuisine and indeed any of the places we've been to on our journey so far...Georgia's bread game is OFF. THE. CHARTS.
The first one in the slideshow is the adjaruli version of khachapuri (Georgian cheese bread). It's basically a cheesy bread boat with a dippy egg and a little chunk of butter in the middle. Eat it hot and drool at the memory of it forever more!
The second one is a layered khachapuri and is equally mind blowing. The third one is a standard khachapuri - cheesy pizza bread. Fairly standard but never the less: delicious! The Bakery Wars are over. The winner is Georgia!
On to Armenia!
Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, out of nowhere has made its way into my Top-10 cities in the world for many reasons but not least, the food there. We broke our backpacker budget somewhat and headed for Sherep.
The reputation of this place proceeds it and we were blown away by the tantalising dishes, the open kitchen and the theatre of the delivery were all top quality.
I mean, it's just pumpkin with some delicious stir fried meat and veg inside...but deliver it to my table and cut that stuffed pumpkin open in front of me to reveal its steaming hot juicy filling, and I'm YOURS! Haha
Of course we had a variety of khachapuri with our meal!
The desert could have been from anywhere in the world but, regardless, it was one of the most delicious I can remember and...the theatre!!!
Incredible food with a bit of theatre thrown in - 'Yes please, sir. Thank you kindly!'
So, on to Azerbaijan!
Pictured here on the left: Dushbara soup - dumplings of meat in a lamb broth - pretty good! On the right: Piti - It's a lamb broth with (very) fatty lamb chunks in the brew alongside chickpeas, potato and a single plum (occasionally other ingredients).
You're supposed to pour the broth into a bowl & soak bread into it. Eat that and then mash the remaining fat, lamb, chickpeas etc & swallow it down.
...I removed the big chunks of fat before I did the mashing but really enjoyed it!
Other dishes are available in these wonderfully interesting countries but the ones I've mentioned were our favourites.
I very much recommend going to try them for yourselves. We went in late November/December - a bit too cold at that time of year to enjoy all that the region has to offer but still a wonderful part of our trip!
From Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, we flew out of winter, into tropical Sri Lanka...