At the Crossroads of Europe & Asia

Photo credit: Ann Schneider

Demystifying Megrelian Cuisine

Spices are vital for Megrelian Cuisine. Photo credit: John Wurdeman
Spices are vital for Megrelian Cuisine. Photo credit: John Wurdeman

Golden Fleece and Megrelian Spices


The Megrelian people of western Georgia in the South Caucasus are rightfully proud of their food. Hot, spicy and varied, Megrelian cuisine has been handed down through the generations since the time of the Kingdom of Colchis (which, if you remember your mythology, was where Jason went to search for the Golden Fleece).

Megrelian cuisine and the views for eating it are both over the top in Georgia. Photo credit: Peter Guttman
Megrelian cuisine and the views for eating it are both over the top in Georgia. Photo credit: Peter Guttman

Say Cheese


The Megrelian take on Georgia’s most famous food khachapuri – warm yeasted bread stuffed with cheese – is to top it with more cheese. More is better here: Megrelian hot pepper relish, adjika, is hotter and more peppery than in other regions of Georgia; its signature cheese, suluguni, is creamier and saltier; and its polenta dish, elarji, takes the everyday Georgian polenta-with-cheese dish called ghomi and dresses it up with even more cheese.

Cheeses of all kinds are key ingredients in many Megrelian dishes. Photo credit: Ana Filonov
Cheeses of all kinds are key ingredients in many Megrelian dishes. Photo credit: Ana Filonov

Spice Route


Megrelian lamb, chicken, and beef stews are thick with walnut paste and spices that can include golden marigold petals and blue mountain fenugreek. At the market, dozens of spice blends are mounded in containers. Just one of them, khmeli-suneli, can include basil, red pepper, dill, coriander, marjoram, saffron, and perhaps parsley, mint, celery, bay leaf, and fenugreek. Eggplant, mushrooms, chopped fresh herbs, tomatoes, and onions are favorite vegetables and pomegranate seeds garnish spicy dishes to balance the flavors. The salty suluguni cheese is often smoked, as is kupati, pork sausage links served with plum sauce.

Mounds of spices and spice mixes for Megrelian dishes are a common sight in Georgia. Photo credit: John Wurdeman
Mounds of spices and spice mixes for Megrelian dishes are a common sight in Georgia. Photo credit: John Wurdeman

Go West


Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Georgian cuisine is the same throughout the country. Go West, to Megrelia, for some of the finest, most complex and subtly-flavored food in Georgia.

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PUBLISHED: June 14, 2022


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