Kubdari

 

I hate kubdari (კუბდარი).

Let me rephrase that. I hated kubdari.

Originating in the highlands of Georgia’s Svaneti region, kubdari is basically a stuffed meat pie. Because its shape and size is often similar to khachapuri, it is sometimes referred to as “Svanetian khachapuri,” even though there isn’t a single curd of cheese in it.

During our time in the Peace Corps we had eaten kubdari a few times. And it was awful.

At trainings, conferences, work luncheons, etc., next to the khachapuri, there was sometimes this other bread. It looked like lobiani (the stuffed bean bread), which I liked. I’d pick up a piece, ice cold, and if all of the filling didn’t just tumble out on the table or down the front of my shirt before making it to my mouth, I’d bite into it.

Not lobiani.

“What is this?” I’d ask.

“Kubdari.”

“What’s that?”

“Meat.”

“What kind of meat?”

“. . . . . I don’t know. Meat. Eat it. It’s delicious.”

It certainly was not. Dry. Chewy. Flavorless. Awful.

Again and again this would happen. I’d see what looked like lobiani, only to be unpleasantly surprised when I discovered it was actually just its boring and unsavory cousin, kubdari.

I finally stopped eating it altogether.

Yet, as we prepared to go to Svaneti a few weeks ago, people were raving about it. “You must eat kubdari in Svaneti! It’s amazing! It’s delicious!”

I had my doubts, but I fully intended to try it, to see if it was better up there in its homeland.

On our way up the mountain last week, our driver asked if we were hungry.

Sure, why not. Recently, the way our eating habits have evolved over here, we’re usually either a) stuffed or b) starving. Not the way we roll in the States, but when you’re traveling as much as we are, mostly as guests of other people, unsure of when your next meal will be, knowing that a full-on multi-course supra feast is a possibility at any given moment, it’s hard to plan our meals and have sensible eating habits. But we came over here to eat, so I’m not complaining.

Our driver would call ahead to a roadside cafe and order kubdari for us, so it would be ready when we arrived. It was “the best kubdari.”

Mmm-hmmm.

We pulled up to a nondescript blue building and went inside.

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What they brought out on a plate was a completely different dish than any kubdari we had eaten before.

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Steaming hot. Packed with lean chunks of meat, diced onions and garlic. Buttery. Salty. Spicy. Absolutely delicious.

Even though it’s easy to just pick up a slice and dive in, we were told that the traditional way of eating it is to peel back the top layer of bread, pulling off pieces and using them to scoop up chunks of the meat inside.

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Later, we spent time learning how to make it. As with all great Georgian food (and most great food in general), it comes down to high quality ingredients and simple techniques executed perfectly.

Sometimes they use pork, but more often beef. Sometimes both. Sometimes even lamb. The meat isn’t ground at all — it’s diced. It’s mixed with chopped onions and garlic and a blend of spices including the zesty and potent Svanetian Salt (a mix of spices on every table in Svaneti, much like salt and pepper in America), hot red pepper and a touch of fennel. As the meat cooks inside the bread, the fat melts, binding the dish together and creating that “buttery” flavor I thought I tasted (there is actually no butter at all in the dish).

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It’s important to taste the meat before you stuff it all in the bread to know if you need to adjust your seasoning, so we cooked a small spoonful on the top of the wood-burning stove. Gas has not made it up into the mountains yet, so wood-burning stoves and ovens are the norm.

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The dough and assembly is essentially the same as with khachapuri.

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Roll it all up, then cook it on both sides on the stovetop before finishing it in the oven.

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I’ll admit it: I was wrong. I’m a convert. I ate three of them in two days.

I love kubdari.

P.S. If you’d like to try authentic Svanetian Salt, go to kargigogo.com and use Coupon Code SVANETI at checkout to save 20% off this delicious spice blend, now through June 30th! It’s great on everything from grilled meats to veggies to breads to eggs… to kubdari. 🙂

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9 thoughts on “Kubdari

  1. NJKDHs

    You are so right about Kubdari in other places than in Svanetia… I have heard it quite often that Kubdari is only good in Svanetia and particularly in one restaurent which is located near toMestia 🙂 As I wrote before they eat also Kubdari with trout, kalmakhis kubdari in Georgian 🙂

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  2. We ate Kubdari at that same blue café, and you’re right, it was delicious! The Turkish coffee was good too. Our marshrutka stopped here, which we got on after an overnight train and everyone traveling with us threw their puri to a stray dog and ate kubdari instead.

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  3. NJKDHs

    Gurgucheli is one more dish that I have discovered ant it comes from the Khevsureti region. It’s basically boiled mchadi with cheese…. In Georgian the name of it is ღურღუჭელი

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    1. Thanks for reading! We have a lot of recipes to add to kargigogo.com/recipes as a result of this trip, and hope to get that done over the coming weeks! In the meantime, if you use the khachapuri dough recipe on our site and look at the pictures/descriptions in this post, that should get you pretty close. Also, I believe georgianrecipes.net has kubdari on their site (although I haven’t tried making it).

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