The rich cultural heritage and diverse cuisine of Ajara make it a true gastronomic gem. A unique fusion of flavors and ingredients, Ajara's culinary delights encompass both traditional Georgian dishes like Satsivi, Khachapuri, Mchadi, Khinkali, Chkmeruli, Nigvziani Pkhali, and Lobio, as well as a plethora of local specialties.
The mountainous lifestyle of Ajara has significantly shaped its cuisine. With long winters being a hallmark of the highlands, dairy products have become a staple ingredient in many dishes. Additionally, the culinary scene features a variety of vegetable, meat, and fish dishes.
Highland Ajara is known for its distinct string cheese, which boasts a unique taste and texture that sets it apart from other cheeses, captivating the curiosity of tourists. Kaimagi, another nourishing dairy-based dish, is also a signature offering in Ajara and is typically enjoyed with mchadi and cheese.
Borano, a filling and high-calorie dish, is a true representation of Ajara cuisine. It primarily features erbo and Ajarian cheese, but there are several variations using different ingredients, such as the popular version with egg and corn flour.
Another unique dish in Ajara is Malakhto, which incorporates fresh green beans, walnuts, various spices, and the essential ingredient, isrim juice—a musty grape juice that lends a distinct flavor to the dish.
Kobuleti dishes are also well-known in the region, with Yakhni being a prime example. This dish features beef breast combined with an array of spices, making it an integral part of the Kobuleti table.
Achma, a spin on the classic khachapuri, stands out with its unique form and preparation method. Made from layers of thin dough filled with melted cheese and butter, Achma is both light and nourishing.
For an even more distinctive and delicious option, try Sinori, which requires specially baked dough plates, Nadughi (strained sour milk curd) and erbo. Prepared on the skin, Sinori has an exceptional flavor and texture.
For a delightful, delicate treat, give Kaisafa a taste. Made from plums, this dessert involves cooking dried plums, adding walnuts and sugar, and topping it off with burnt butter. It's a perfect accompaniment to tea.
Ajarians also bring their own flair to various classic dishes, like Chakhokhbili. This chicken dish is served with boiled rice and garnished with chopped walnuts and garlic, adding an extra layer of flavor.
Chirbuli is a quick and easy dish to prepare, popular throughout Georgia but with a unique twist in Ajara. The preparation starts by frying tomatoes in a pan, followed by the addition of various herbs, and finally, an egg. The dish is cooked on low heat, and it's essential not to stir it once the egg is added.
The array of Ajarian dishes is seemingly endless, with the most iconic and beloved dish being Ajarian khachapuri. You can taste this exceptional dish anywhere in Ajara. The unique shape and flavor of Ajarian khachapuri set it apart from other versions. It is believed that the Laz people, living on the mountain's edge, shaped the dough like a boat, with the egg yolk symbolizing the sun setting into the sea.
Although there are many more traditional Ajarian dishes to explore, let's turn our attention to the region's desserts. One exceptional treat is milk halva, which, despite its complex preparation process, is incredibly delicious. Made with sugar, milk, and kaimagi, the challenge lies not in the ingredients but in mastering the fermentation, cooling, and heating processes, as well as the precise timing for cutting.
Another mouthwatering dessert typical of Ajara is burme, a delightful combination of butter, walnuts, nuts, and sugar. After baking, it is drenched in syrup for added sweetness.
Boregi is a well-known sweet treat, quite similar to burme in terms of ingredients. It's made with a mixture of walnuts or nuts and sugar, which is then wrapped in a thin layer of dough and baked in the oven. Once ready, a drizzle of boiling syrup and salted butter adds the perfect finishing touch to this delightful dessert.
After exploring this extensive list of dishes, you're probably eager to see and, most importantly, taste them all. You'll have the perfect opportunity to do so when you visit Ajara, especially if you venture into the mountainous areas where family-run hotels abound. The hospitable hosts will warmly welcome you and offer a variety of delicious dishes and desserts to satisfy your cravings. Embark on a memorable journey to Ajara, and immerse yourself in its rich culinary traditions for an unforgettable experience.