Local cuisine

Tushetian cuisine was traditionally based on products of sheep breeding and small (and little fertile) fields. Meat, milk and derived products (whether from cows or sheep) are elemental. Among milk products Tusheti is typical with its salty cheese maturing in sheep skin (gudis kveli) as one of the symbols of the Tushetian cuisine. It was traditionally kept in bags made of inverted sheep skins, which imparted a specific flavour.

In contrast, the yoghurt typical for lowlands (matsoni) is not much popular in Tusheti and is rather produced by shepherds in the mountains (during the milking period). Elemental in cuisine are wheat and other cereals, which are used to make bread (puri), curd/cheese pancakes (kotori - see the picture on the left) and dumplings filled with chopped meat (khinkali). Compared to other regions in Georgia, the Tusheti khinkali have a thicker dough skin and may sometimes be filled with potatoes. Nevertheless, they are mostly prepared with meat, onion, herbs and other seasoning. They are shaped to symbolize the sun. Pancakes called kotori are known as khachapuri in lowlands. They are filled with young salt-free cheese or curd, topped with clarified butter, and rank among the typical products of the local cuisine. They are commonly a bit oilier and smaller than those in the lowlands. Among milk products we shall mention khavitsi, i.e. curd mixed with clarified butter. When solid again, it becomes a great source of energy for shepherds in a form that can be stored and carried along.

Nearly all food is commonly seasoned with local herbs, forming a distinct character of the local cuisine. Coriander (kindzi) is the traditional basic ingredient in Georgia and Tusheti, whether picked in its natural habitat or grown in the gardens. As extras, people also have bites of other fresh herbs while eating their main course. Importantly, pickles are made through the process of lactic acid fermentation in salt (e.g. fermented flowers of a scrub called jonjoli - bladdernut originating in lowlands), popular are also sweet preserves..

A typical local drink is araki, a kind of brandy, mostly made from distilled grape pomace (chacha). Nonetheless, distillation of cereals used to be more common. Grapes cultivated in Alvani are brought here, too. Home-made beer (aludi) is a festive drink traditionally made from mountain barley and wild hops. It is brewed for religious occasions in dedicated buildings where women in their period are not allowed. Delicious are herbal infusions, above all those of mint (pitna) and wild thyme (kondara) sold in guest houses as the "Tusheti tea".