Have you ever had a soup dumpling the size of a baseball!? When we heard khinkali were that big, we were in a little disbelief, dumplings the size of a small fist?! I don’t know about that… but when these massive Georgian soup dumplings arrived at our table, we became full on believers! Being our first time, we didn’t know how to eat khinkali. So, if you’re unsure like us, then this should shed some light.
What exactly are khinkali, and why are they so loved?
Khinkali are considered the most popular Georgian food and one of the national dishes of the country. Khinkali are so popular they can be found in almost every restaurant in the country. They’re a type of extra-large dumpling that’s chock full of meat and spices, creating a rich soup inside the dumpling. Georgian soup dumplings are differentiated by their plaited knobs of dough and giant size. They’re incredibly hearty, absolutely massive, full of flavour, and are not to be underestimated.
What are Georgian soup dumplings made of?
In order to make the perfect soup dumpling, the raw meat filling of lamb, pork, beef, or a combination of the last two, is formed into a ball and surrounded by raw dough. Each dumpling is sealed tight with a decent sized knob of dough left on the top. We’ll get to its purpose later.
The dumpling is usually boiled or fried, and as the meat is cooked inside, this is when the magic happens. All the juice released from the meat and flavour of the spices is trapped inside the dumpling. This creates a rich and delicious soup inside the dumpling which the meat sits in, hence the name, soup dumpling!
The best part of khinkali, the soup
Extremely important and the number one takeaway if you get anything from reading this, is that the soup inside the dumpling is the most precious part! You have to be extra careful how you eat khinkali and make sure that you do it the proper way. If not, you’ll lose your soup and most definitely get looked down upon by the local Georgians around you.
The most functional part of khinkali, the tail
The top of the dumpling where the pleats meet is often called the ‘tail’ and is a large knob of dough sticking out the top. This part is the most helpful and functional part of the dumpling when it comes to eating. It acts as your ‘handle’ for holding onto so that you can be sure not to lose any precious soup. The tail is also quite tough and unappetizing, so make sure you don’t eat it! It’s strictly for functional purposes only and keeping track of who’s eating the most.
It’s eatin’ time; how to eat khinkali
How do you eat Georgian soup dumplings, you ask? The proper etiquette is to grab your khinkali by the tail with your bare hands and turn it upside down. Then, carefully pierce the top side of it with your teeth and make a small hole.
From the hole, slowly sip out the hot, rich soup. Do this without the dumpling bursting open or spilling and getting all over the place!
Once the soup has been devoured you can easily nibble around now and eat the dumpling and juicy meat inside.
The use of any utensil is highly advised against. Doing so in any way would pierce the dumpling on your plate, and in absolute horror, you’d lose your precious soup before getting the slightest chance to enjoy it.
Khinkali of all sorts of shapes and sizes
Depending on the region of Georgia you’re in, you’ll get khinkali with a different variety of spices and fillings. Some of the most popular are khevsuruli khinkali, which have onions, salt, cumin, and chili pepper, and kalakuri khinkali, which is the more modern recipe and uses the same spices as khevsuruli, but with the addition of herbs such as parsley and cilantro (coriander).
Some even more modern versions of khinkali do away with meat all together. These have fillings of imeretian and cottage cheeses, mushrooms, mashed potato, and even a potato cheese mix. For those looking for something crispier, there’s also deep fried khinkali. These are one of our favourites, although they’re a little harder to come by.
We even came across a khinkali soup with teeny tiny khinkali floating in the broth. So, whatever you fancy, there’s a wide range of khinkali for any taste and palate. Even if you’re vegetarian, there’s something for everyone.
How to order
When out at a restaurant looking to get your khinkali fix, it’s important to note that one order typically means five or more of whichever type you’re looking to get. This is the case in most restaurants. Only one or two of all the places we tried allowed you to order them by piece. Something to consider when choosing the type you want, since an order of five is actually quite a decent meal considering the size of them!
If you’re interested in seeing first-hand the best way to eat these little beasts without leaking soup on your plate, or all over yourself, then please watch the video below. We try a few different kinds of these delicious soup dumplings and get to experience true Georgian cooking.