Speaking about Georgian cuisine, one cannot fail to mention the main differences between the cuisines of Western and Eastern Georgia, due not only to the different natural conditions of these two large regions, but also to the well-known Turkish influence on the cuisine of Western Georgia and Iranian influence on the cuisine of Eastern Georgia. As a result, a difference was established in the use of some basic products (bread, meat) and partly in the character of the favorite aromatic and flavor range – a difference that has survived up to our time.
So, in Western Georgia, corn bread and special corn flour cakes – mchadi are widespread, while in Eastern Georgia they prefer wheat bread. In some parts of Western Georgia – Megrelia and Abkhazia – they also use chumiza (a type of millet) as bread, from which they cook a mushy mass – gomi, used instead of bread with soups, meat and vegetable dishes. As for meat, in Eastern Georgia, along with the main meat for Georgians – beef, they also eat mutton, consume quite a lot of animal fats, while in Western Georgia they eat much less meat, preferring poultry, i.e. mostly chickens and turkeys (geese and ducks are not eaten in Georgia). Finally, in Western Georgia, they use spicier dishes, somewhat different sauces.
All this, however, does not give grounds to draw an insurmountable line between Western and Eastern Georgian cuisine, because it does not affect, does not change the main, characteristic features of Georgian national cuisine. And in the field of using the vast majority of products, and even more so in the field of technology in general, all Georgian cuisine has its own characteristics.
Take, for example, meat dishes, so common in Transcaucasia. The long existence of the Georgian nation at the junction of many cultures and influences has led to the fact that in general, in Georgian cuisine, none of the types of meat has a predominant value. Georgian meat dishes can be made from pork (muzhuzhi), lamb (chanakhi), beef (kharcho), and poultry (chakhokhbili). Such tolerance is not usually characteristic of other peoples of the East. It is quite clearly illustrated, by the way, by one ancient dish of Georgian cuisine, called “bull on a spit.” Its composition is extremely simple: a calf is placed inside a whole carcass of a bull, a lamb is placed in a calf, a turkey is placed in a lamb, a goose is placed in a turkey, a duck is placed in a goose, a chicken is placed in a duck. In the intervals between these animals and inside them, spicy herbs are stuffed into all corners – cilantro, basil, tarragon, leek, mint, flavored and sprinkled with red pepper, garlic, saffron, cinnamon and nuts. All this giant roast is roasted on a spit, right on the street, over a coal pile for several hours. Outside, a rather thick layer of it is charred, so that part of the meat disappears. But inside there is such an abundance of juice, such a unique aroma that no other meat dish in the world can compare with it in terms of juiciness and subtlety of the taste of meat.
Compared to meat, fish dishes occupy a relatively modest place in Georgia, and even then only in certain areas located near rivers. At the same time, it should be emphasized that barbel, khramulya, shemaya, and podust, typical of the Transcaucasus, belong to the carp family and are distinguished by exceptionally tender and fatty meat. In the high-mountainous transparent and fast rivers of Abkhazia, Svanetia, Khevsureti and Upper Kartaliniya, trout is common, the meat of which is also exquisitely tasty and does not have a specific “fishy” taste. These features of local fish raw materials, combined with the relatively rare and insignificant use of fish compared to meat in Georgian cuisine, left their mark on the way Georgians cook fish. It is used mainly in boiled and stewed form and flavored with the same sauces and seasonings,Vegetable dishes in Georgian cuisine can be raw, such as salads, but most often they are boiled, baked, fried, stewed, pickled or salted. The most commonly used combination of any one main vegetable (for example, beans, eggplant) with a variety of changing seasonings. Such, for example, are dozens of types of lobio. In other cases, on the contrary, the main vegetables (cabbage, beans, eggplant, beets, spinach) in the dish change, but seasonings, sauces, gravies remain unchanged. These are vegetable dishes such as mkhali and borani.
According to PROEXCHANGERATES, a large place in Georgian cuisine is occupied by nuts – hazelnuts, hazelnuts, beech nuts, almonds, but most often walnuts. This specific raw material is an invariable component of various seasonings and sauces that are equally well suited to poultry, vegetable and even fish dishes. Nuts go to meat soups and confectionery, cold salads and hot main courses. Without them, in short, the Georgian table is inconceivable.
Finally, spicy herbs, consumed throughout the year, have become of great importance in Georgian cuisine. These are cilantro, tarragon, basil, savory, leek, green onions, and partly mint.
Another distinguishing feature of the Georgian table is the frequent and abundant use of cheeses. First of all, the composition of cheeses attracts attention. These are exclusively brine-type cheeses, prepared mainly by the wineskin and partly by the jug method. In Western Georgia, the production of mild, fresh cheeses with a sour-milk taste is concentrated – Suluguni and Imereti. In the high-mountainous northern regions of Eastern Georgia, spicy and salty cheeses are made – Kobi, Tush and Georgian.
The widespread use of open fire and skewers to this day for cooking not only meat, but also vegetable, fish and even cheese dishes, as well as the use of a clay jug-shaped oven – torne for baking flour products in general, is typical, of course, not only for Georgian, but and for other Transcaucasian cuisines. More specific are the ketsi used by Georgians for frying and baking – small clay and large stone pans, as well as wide metal tapa pans for frying poultry under pressure. And although the last technique was borrowed from Armenians in antiquity, it has become much more widespread in Georgian cuisine. All these technological methods are, however, only one of the elements of creating a national culinary flavor in Georgian cuisine.
Like French cuisine, Georgian cuisine is unthinkable without sauces. At the same time, Georgian sauces are fundamentally different from European ones both in composition and technology. For Georgian sauces of all kinds, exclusively vegetable raw materials are used as the basis. Most often, these are sour berry and fruit juices or puree from tkemali, blackthorn, pomegranate, blackberry, barberry, sometimes from tomatoes. Nut sauces are also widely used, where the base is crushed nuts, diluted either with broth, or with plain water or wine vinegar. Crushed garlic is less commonly used as a base for some sauces (but it is included as an additional component in most sauces). In many sauces and gravies, all of these basic plant elements (sour juice, nuts, garlic) are combined in different proportions. Along with the base, the composition of Georgian sauces also includes a large set of spices, mainly spicy greens, spicy herbs, to which a small amount of dry spices is added. The composition of spicy greens includes cilantro, basil, tarragon, savory, parsley, dill, mint; in the composition of dry spices – red pepper, coriander seeds, cinnamon, cardobenedict (Imereti saffron), cloves. Each sauce uses its own set of spices, that is, not all of the indicated spices together, but usually three or four of them. It is by varying sauces and, in general, a small number of main products that the variety of main dishes of Georgian cuisine is achieved to a large extent. Most often, products such as beans, eggplants, and poultry serve as the basis, which are able to create a very close to neutral, but not quite neutral taste background, favorable for the aroma, taste, and piquancy of Georgian sauces to appear on it. Sometimes Georgian sauces act as independent dishes and are used in this case with bread. Sufficient calorie content, a significant content of vitamins, high palatability fully explain their use.
True, there are some differences between the various regions of Georgia in the use of spices: in Western Georgia, especially in Abkhazia, which was under the rule of Turkey for almost two and a half centuries (1578-1810), the use of red pepper (Turkish) is much more widespread than in Eastern Georgia. So, in Abkhazia they use a spicy mixture of adjika, in which red pepper makes up the fourth (!) Part, in other regions of Georgia, the share of red pepper in the total composition of spicy mixtures gradually increases (from west to east), sometimes reaching up to 5%, i.e. one-twentieth, but usually does not exceed a tenth on average.