What Is Khinkali?

Sara Schmidt

While most cultures have some form of dumplings or buns, the khinkali dumplings of Georgia are particularly tasty and lovely. The soft pockets of food are usually savory, filled with cheesy mixtures or spicy meats. They are much like the Polish pierogi, or the Asian wonton, but shaped like meringue knobs, with delicate twists that form hand-sized dumplings.

Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

Khinkali most commonly feature lamb as their central filling. Beef, pork, or vegetables may also be used in khinkali. The dumplings can be boiled or steamed, resulting in soft, hot, flavorful bites. Though one could fill the dumplings with fruit or other sweet fillings if desired, savory meats and vegetables are the traditional ingredients used in making khinkali.

Many different spices may be utilized when preparing these dumplings. Red pepper is a favorite spice in some recipes. Onions are usually called for as well. Some other spices may include caraway seeds, curry, and garlic. Some cooks may throw in a small fruit element, such as raisins, without basing the entire dumpling on fruit in order to provide a measured amount of sweetness and texture.

A certain etiquette is generally followed while eating khinkali. The pointed tops of the treats, which are known as kudi, or "belly buttons," are generally very hard, and not meant to be eaten. The filling is usually very runny and juicy, so eaters are encouraged to hold the pointed end and eat the rounded side with small bites. The juicy broth should be quietly sucked out as the dumpling is still steaming to avoid dribbling the savory broth down one's chin!

Those who eat khinkali on a regular basis usually eat the food in this manner. Consuming the dumplings bottom-side and sucking out their juice may also prevent the foods from exploding, which can occur if eaten in any other manner. Sprinkling pepper on the food pockets is another common way to indulge in them.

Though dipping sauces may be used, they are generally not necessary. The inner broth of the dumplings make them quite juicy and wet without the need for a sauce. Another traditional custom used when eating khinkali is keeping track of the number of dumplings consumed. The discarded stems are left on the plate to accumulate and serve as proof of how many khinkali were eaten. If a sauce is utilized, a yogurt-based cream or salad dressing will usually work nicely.

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