With the passing of the seasons and the corresponding changes at the fruit and vegetable markets (as well as being an official Tbilisi resident), I’ve found some new foods to share with you!
Quince (komshi კომში): I’d heard of this “quince” before, but I never really knew what it was. Now I know that it’s the fruit that looks like a rather deformed apple or pear. I’d always liked the Mexican treat dulce de membrillo, but I’d never known that membrillo is the Spanish word for quince. So, now I frequently buy quinces. Usually I mix them with apples for baked goods, but my Georgian teacher introduced me to another great way to cook them–add them to ojakhuri, the Georgian staple of fried potatoes and onions and chunks of pork. Quince adds a nice sweet and sour and slightly soft counterpart to the saltiness and crunchiness of the rest of the ojakhuri.
Persimmon (khurma ხურმა and karalioki კარალიოკი): Another fruit that I’d heard of but don’t think I’d ever eaten. There are two kinds of persimmon available in Georgia “khurma” which is very astringent and frankly gross, and “karalioki” which is really sweet and delicious and can be eaten raw without any special preparation. I’ve been trying to find a botanical explanation for the difference, but haven’t figured it out entirely yet (I’ve heard different things from multiple knowledgeable people…if you know anything, please let me know in the comments…my curiosity has been piqued!). My working hypothesis is that they’re different varieties of the same species that can mingle–that’s why you’re sometimes mightily disappointed when there’s a khurma in the pile of karalioki you bought (and sometimes they’re sold mixed together and you’re left to figure things out yourself).
Dried karalioki (karaliokis chiri კარალიოკის ჩირი) are also really fantastic–they taste almost like dates, but are MUCH cheaper (only 2-3 lari a kilo!)
Falafel at Jaffa Shuarma and Pita+: That’s right, you can get falafel in Tbilisi! The Jaffa Shuarma chain (and some of their sister restaurants: Taghlaura, Samikinto, and Machakhela) have a solid and super-cheap (3.50 GEL) falafel wrap! It’s a favorite quick/lazy dinner. The branch where I go to also serves excellent french fries and an acceptable and inexpensive house Saperavi. For a really delicious falafel sandwich, head to Pita+ in Vake. It’s a bit more expensive (roughly 5 GEL, as I recall) and unfortunately far from my house, but their falafel is really fantastic!
Mexican Potatoes: a staple of Tbilisi’s cool cafes, though I’ve never seen them anywhere else (despite living near Mexico). Basically they’re roasted (sometimes fried) potato wedges, coated with spices–usually some combination of chile, cumin, coriander and salt. Often served with some sort of dipping sauce–spicy ketchup, spicy mayonnaise, or garlic mayonnaise. I’ve never had bad Mexican potatoes and have sampled them at many cafes. My favorites (and an excellent garlic mayo) are at the elusive cafe of the Literature Museum (aka Ezo aka Fantastic Duqan)
Tomato Egg-Drop Soup: I don’t know quite how to explain this, nor have I perfected how to make it yet, but I’ll give it a stab here in hopes that somewhat might have ideas for how to improve my attempts at recreating it. This was my Tbilisi host family’s go-to quick dinner. Basically, it’s tomato sauce with lots of nicely-sauteed onion, with eggs cooked into it. They served it with plentiful buttered bread, and it was a wonderfully warm and satisfying quick meal. My attempts have been tasty, but not quite right…
I’ve also been experimenting more in my own kitchen–trying both to make some American food, and to use up the somewhat odd assortment of foods that I’ve inherited from friends as they move away (or leave stuff in my apartment after parties). So far, green tomato salsa, Grandma’s beef stew, and chocolate-cherry “cookie pudding” have worked out well…