Dubai has a large SE Asian labor force. This is on the way to the grocery store in 100 degree heat.Rice!!!Oreo, hazelnut, and caramel KitKat.I love clove, and was surprised to find clove toothpaste.My goodies! The scarf was $2. I love Indian everything.
I love grocery stores in foreign countries. Here, nearly everything is imported, catering to tastes from around the world since 95% of the population here is foreign. We certainly don’t have much of what they sell here, in Tbilisi, including chocolate bunnies. I’ll report on the camel milk. I also like seeing the Arabic script.
Ask any Georgian what their favorite food is, and they will likely say khinkali (ხინკალი), a juicy meat filled boiled dumpling. Fortunately for those following a vegan diet for religious purposes, and vegetarians, they often come in mushroom, cheese, potato, and very occasionally- spinach. However meat is considered the real khinkali. When I once told my high school students that I didn’t like khinkali to see what their reaction would be, they all gasped in disbelief until I said I was joking, then exhaled and liked me again. Kids can usually eat about 5, and adults up to 10.
Today I took a khinkali making class with some friends at For a Better Future, a terrific nonprofit organization which supports the economic and social welfare of internally displaced people. The executive director Nana and her staff were very patient and gracious teachers.
Step 2: chop parsley and onions for the meat, and cilantro and spinach for the vegetarian Step 3: mix spinach, grilled onions, imeruli cheese, and chili powderStep 4: roll the dough, punch out with a special tool, roll thin circlesStep 5: the hardest part of making khinkali is gathering the dough and sealing the top, which I didn’t quite master. There should be at least 20 gathers.Others had a better knack for itStep 6: Boil the dumplings and shake the pot slightly to avoid sticking. They first puff up like balloons and then deflate a little bit and float. Remove with a slotted wooden spoon, as our host Nana is doing.Sprinkle with a little pepper, grab the knot, take a bite from the bottom, slurp out the juice first and then the filling. We ate them with a traditional cucumber, tomato, parsley salad, bread, smoked cheese, homemade chacha (strong fruity vodka/moonshine) and homemade red wine. My friends kindly gave me the spinach leftovers which I fried (shhh) for dinner.
Sure, Georgian looks impossible to decipher, but with a few easy words to get you started, you’ll be reading Rustavelli in no time.
Eh M. G Ee. Easy right?
Eh.V.Ee.T.A. P.Eh.R.O.N.Ee. Look you’re reading Georgian!
Sulguni is one of the most widely produced and consumed cheeses in the country. The other is imeruli. Both are white and sometimes salty depending on the variety. Georgians eat a lot of cheese and use it in dishes such as khachapuri (cheese filled bread), elarji (polenta with cheese), and stuffed mushrooms. One of my favorites is champoose, cheese shish kebab wrapped in grilled dough.I love butter, so it’s unfortunate that it’s the most confusing section of the grocery store. Usually I just guess what may be tasty based on fat content. My friend said the one on the bottom right is margarine, which people may choose to eat during lent, when some follow a vegan diet.
One of the challenges of learning Georgian is that some of the sounds can be difficult to reproduce for foreigners; we just don’t know what to do with our mouths exactly. If you can say this letter correctly you win a free trip to Tbilisi. Believe me, it sounds like you have grapes stuck in your throat .
Since arriving in Tbilisi, one of my weaknesses has become an over consumption of pastries. Every street has a café or small bakery selling beautiful cakes, quite cheaply by foreign standards. Slices generally run less than $1, and never more than $2 unless you sit down in a fancy café, with whole cakes between $5-$12. Hence my problem, particularly with napoleons, which I had never heard of until I arrived here.
I’ve been hearing whispers about Mada Bakery for a while. At my Russian conversation group this week someone brought a gooey chocolate cake and said it was from Mada. My hair stood on end. Mada, that name again! Must-go! Fortunately my friend Claire’s birthday is today, so I had an excuse to visit.
The bakery was mobbed and the staff was patient while I walked back and forth, like at a zoo, ogling chocolate and vanilla cakes of various sizes in mirrored glass cases. A simple 2-layer cake runs $5, and their fanciest multilayered creation $20, which is definitely not cheap by local standards. Staff spoke enough English to explain the walnut, cherry, and berry fillings inside a few of them. Since they all surely tasted amazing, I chose by price. When I photographed Claire’s cake, I somehow accidentally nudged it, and wow, I can’t wait for her to blow out her candles to try more.