It’s no secret that I adore food, but little did I know that I would fall madly in love with a delicious spiced meat filled dumpling called, Khinkali. Maybe love is a strong word and should be replaced with an insane addiction.
On my first visit to Georgia this past spring, I eyed these bad boys from across the dirt covered stable where our celebratory feast was laid out. Nudged by the hostess with a sharp elbow, she pushed her chin forward in a strong suggestive manner at the massive plate of Khinkalis. “Hot,” she whispered. “Eat hot”.
Eyeing them suspiciously, I slowly sauntered over to the table with a my qvevri sample of Rkatsiteli in one hand, and a heaping full plate of various other Georgian “surprises” in the other. Assuming a strong similarity to a Chinese dumpling, I grabbed the top of the dumpling, or kuchi, and took my first bite.
Much to her joy, juice exploded from the dumpling and cascaded down my chin, a sweet and savory waterfall that left my entire body lurching forwards so as to avoid an unsuspecting wet t-shirt contest. Slightly annoyed that I wasn’t given fair warning, she smiled and indicated the rhetorical question, “Yeah? Good?”. Good wouldn’t explain the flavor; it’s magical! From annoyed to crazed, I spread the good news telling my peers to stop whatever they were doing to get their hands on these. “They’re fabulously juicy, deliciously spiced and fantastically flavored! Get them while they’re hot!”
On a very recent trip with the Georgian Wine Association, I learned that women are expected to eat 10 of these incredibly filling little beasts, while men should shoot for 20. I warn you now, if you want to aim for the record, do not try and nibble on anything else tempting at the table first! I, unfortunately, learned the hard way.
Khinkalis originate from the eastern Georgian regions of Pshavi, Mtiuleti and Khevsureti, which eventually spread different versions across the Caucasus to countries such as Armenia, Azerbaijan and Chechnya.
Khinkalis are filled with various fillings, mostly with spiced meat (usually beef and pork, sometimes mutton), greens and onions. Mushrooms or cheese may be used in place of meat for those vegetarians among us; however, the key is not the filling so much as the folding technique to create evenly spaced pleats that end in a tight nub at the top, which should only be used as a handle. I’ve included a recipe below with a link to a video that might be of use.
For the filling:
For the dough:
Mix the ground meat, herbs and onions. Stir in the spices into the meat mixture, add water, salt and mix it thoroughly. Set aside.
Pour the flour into a basin, sprinkle it with salt, add water and make the dough. On a floured board roll the dough out not too thinly and cut the rounds out with the help of a glass. Roll each round out thinly on a floured board.
Place a teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Fold the edges of the dough.
Boil the khinkali in salted boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper.