Updated: Mar 21, 2019
Origin - Georgia (country)
Khinkali, the dumpling with a twisted knob on the top of the dough, is considered as the national dish of Georgia.
Talking about the knob, because it's very hard and dry, it's actually not supposed to be eaten, but to be counted -- yes, so that you can proudly brag about how many khinkali you had finished! What more interesting is how Georgian locals refer to those knobs, their the cutest nicknames: the kudi (Georgian: ქუდი, "hat") or k'uch'i (Georgian: კუჭი, "stomach"). This just show how much Georgian people love this dish.
If you are familiar with the Ding Tai Fung style Chinese dumplings xiaolongbao, you might wonder what's the connection here? Despite that xiaolongbao is smaller, uses less spices, do not have the big knot, and is usually steamed, they really do feel like cousins!
You are partially right. It is believed that the dish was brought by the Mongols troops when they invaded the Caucasus area in the 1220s. In the book <Armenian Food: Fact, Fiction & Folklore>, authors Irina Petrosian and David Underwood talk write that khinkali are also known around the Caucasus area as khan-kal, and that “folk etymology says that the name means ‘Khan’s head’, but we were unable to find a definitive origin of the name khinkali”.
The fillings vary from area to area, but the common ones are minced meat (pork, beef, lamb) or veggies (especially mushrooms), mixed with spices like cilantro, parsley, onions, black pepper and salt, sometimes warm water or broth as well.
[How to eat]
Khinkali is usually boiled or fried. When it's cooked, especially being boiled, the warm and rich meat juice will be filled within the dough, it's recommended to suck the juice first while taking the first bite (don't spill it!). There are also dried bread pieces provided to absorb the juice in your plate afterwards.
It might not be applicable to most places outside of Georgia, but in Georgia, where khinkali was born, there is a widespread etiquette that one should only use his/her bare hands to eat the khinkali. Using of utensils, like a fork, is considered impolite.
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