Khinkali. The most famous national dish of Georgia. The idea couldn’t be simpler yet more brilliant. Take the meat that you love, grind it and mix it into a spicy, juicy dollop, fill it into a funny but awesome-looking dough bag and cook it in boiling water. Cheap, filling, tasty.
We have been planning to make khinkali for quite some time, and many in our circles were interested in this somewhat exotic dish they have never heard of. This is why it turned out to be another mega-project for at least 8 people or more. We figured the right portion must be about 6 pieces of khinkali per person, so we were aiming for approximately 50 pieces in total. We estimated we needed the following amount of ingredients:
For the filling:
- 1,2 kg lean beef and pork mince (50%-50%)
- plenty of fresh or dried coriander leaves (we used dried as coriander is not widely used and hard to get fresh in Hungary)
- 2/3 tbsp ground cumin
- 1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- chives, finely chopped (optional, but we still haven’t harvested all from our pot so why not?)
- 1 sweet dried paprika, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp salt
For the dough:
- 2 kg white flour (1,7 for the dough itself, the rest for dusting and kneading)
- 3 eggs
- 3 tablespoons of salt
- 4 dl warm water
We started with the dough. We poured 1,7 kg of flour into a large bowl, cracked three eggs on top, added three tablespoons of salt, approximately 0,4 l warm water and started the physically demanding work of mixing and kneading. Initially it was very sticky and knotty, but as we continued to work on it, it became more uniform in texture and also much easier to handle. The kneading should go on for about 10 minutes, adding water or flour as necessary, depending on the texture. The end result should be just moist enough to have the flexibility to form the nice bags around the meat filling, but otherwise keep it as dry as possible. It will soak up some juice from the filling too. You don’t want it to rupture because it is too wet.
When done, we formed a big ball and allowed it to rest for 30-40 minutes.
During this time we prepared the filling, which is really easy. We took two medium onions, roughly cut them and chopped them with a blender until they were but an oozing juicy dollop. We mixed it with the pork and beef mince in a bowl and added 2-3 tablespoons of salt, one whole sweet dried paprika, finely chopped, 2/3 tablespoon of ground cumin and much, much dried coriander, perhaps 5 tablespoons.
We mixed it thoroughly and started to slowly add warm water, continuously mixing it by hand. This would ensure that the final khinkalis would have plenty of juice in them, which is, according to many, the best part. It should be very soft and juicy, at least as much as seen on the photo below.
Next we took out a big chunk from the dough and rolled it out to 1 cm thickness.
We cut small, approximately 6 cm circles with a drinking glass and carefully removed the excess and put it back into the remaining lump of dough.
We flattened out our 1 cm thick circles into 10-12 cm wraps, and while two of us continued to produce these, another two started the filling.
We put a heaping tablespoon of meat in the middle of the wrap and carefully started to fold the edges between our fingers, like an accordion. We tried to aim for 1-1,5 cm deep folds, trying to make as many of them as possible with the given circumference. When we ran out of edge, we twisted the folded ending a little and rolled it between our thumb and index fingers, effectively closing the hole. After pinching off any excess, the khinkali was ready for cooking and we put it aside.
The amount of ingredients allowed for more khinkalis than expected. We managed to made 66 of them in total. No, honestly we weren’t aiming for that number. When we ran out of all the dough and meat, we just lined them up and counted them, and it happened to be 66. Click the gallery at the bottom of this post to see our little army of khinkalis in full!
A few things to consider:
- One thing you should keep in mind when dealing with the dough or the finished, uncooked khinkalis is to use plenty of flour on your working surfaces in order to prevent them from sticking to anything, including each other.
- Optionally you can make the small circles a little thinner, and push two of them together until they stick before starting to roll out the final wraps. We did it both ways and this layered method seems to be more reliable. Some khinkalis did tear with only one layer.
- When you shape your raw khinkalis you should consider that they will grow bigger after cooking. So make them a slightly smaller size than intended.
We put on two pots of water and brought it to a strong boil, then splashed in a little bit of oil and dropped in as many khinkalis as we could fit. The cooking time is approximately 10-15 minutes depending on the size of the dumplings.
We prepared a simple salad for side – very similar to the one I often saw in Georgia – which is basically chopped tomatoes and cucumber and red onion rings, topped with olive oil and coriander. Since we didn’t have fresh coriander we used parsley leaves instead. It was still absolutely fine!
The thick top of the khinkali is called kudi or kuchi in Georgia, and quite often they don’t eat it, they simply leave it on the side of the plate so they can count how much khinkalis they have eaten. I guess nobody is considered by them a real man without at least 10 kudis lining up on their empty plates. We are kind of ashamed that we only had 66 for 8 people, but I, the writer of the article can say in my own defense that I got as far as 9.
I, personally was also quite satisfied with our khinkalis. Although the dumplings weren’t as beautiful as some I saw in Georgia, it was pretty convincing and the taste was actually the exact same thing, as much as I could recall.
I did a little research on Georgian metal and found that there was a surprising number of gifted bands in this country. One of my favourites is Tanelorn, a melodic death metal band from Tbilisi. Let me recommend with this meal one of their songs, I will be there. Absolutely awesome music with a similarly awesome dish.
I love Tbilisi. Damn, I do miss that city’s unique atmosphere a lot – I had some of the best time of my life there! I hope to catch these guys playing live next time I’m there.
Making khinkali is a lengthy process, so in addition to Georgian music we also listened to the following: