Khachapuri – the cheesy bread used by the Economists as a metric for cost of living between Georgian cities.3 min read
We are in Georgia.
According to a local legend, God took a dinner break when he was creating the world and, immersed in his meal, he accidentally tripped and fell on the Caucasus Mountains, sprinkling the landscape with morsels of food from his plate.
This metaphor of a heavenly bounty is appropriate, as Georgia is truly blessed when it comes to food.
With a culture dating back thousands of years and a strategic geographic position straddling migratory and trade routes between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, the country’s culinary traditions are punctuated with outside influences.
Also the most ancient evidence of winemaking has been found here, where the unique practice of burying wine in a clay jug, or kvevri, is still practiced.
And the mountainous landscape of the Caucasus forms a prime backdrop for high-altitude animal grazing and, as a result, a longstanding tradition of seasonal mountain shepherding (hence, also delicious cheeses).
If there’s one dish that exemplifies Georgia’s love of cheese it’s khachapuri (хачапури), and locals make it all across the country.
But this cheese-topped bread is so popular that economists at Tbilisi State University use the dish as a metric for inflation and cost of living between cities.
Basically they divide the average household income by the “Kh-index”, the cost of ingredients, as well as energy like gas or electricity, needed to produce one Imeretian-style khachapuri in a given city, and this reveals how many servings the average family can afford to make in each city.
Economics aside, it’s addictive and, despite its ubiquity, the details of this traditional dish vary by region.
For example, It can be double-crusted, round, square, cheese-topped, or even cheese-filled.
Georgians incorporate a wide array of cheeses and doughs, and will cook it on a stovetop or in the oven. Some versions contain bitter greens or boiled potatoes, while others are filled with whole eggs.
Adjaruli khachapuri, hailing from the Adjara region on the coast of the Black Sea, has three distinct features: an open-faced boat shape, a raw egg, and a pat of butter on top.
People from this area fill their bread boats with sulguni, a brined cow cheese that’s a little bit sour and salty, with the elasticity of mozzarella. It can be fresh or smoked and is used in many dishes besides cheese bread.
And, even better, the Kh-index indicates that Adjara is on the up and up.
And this means more boat-shaped cheese breads around!
Either way, khachapuri is considered one of Georgia’s national comfort-food dishes.
When Georgia was a Soviet republic, many traditional dishes were appropriated by Russia and mistakenly have come to be known as Russian.
That’s why you will find this Georgian dish at pubs and restaurants and even in the home on Russian zakuski spreads.
Images from web – Google Research