Repeat after me. Hatch-ah-POO-ree. Khachapuri. If you haven’t heard of Georgia’s national dish—a cheese-carb wonder that has taken the internet by storm—consider this your lucky introduction.
Khachapuri to the Georgians is what pizza is to the Italians. In the larger cities, parlors devoted to the culinary feat welcome locals and tourists alike to indulge in colossal cheese boats. For those on the go, vendors line the streets selling portable flaky pockets of pastry and gooey cheese. Whether you’re dining in or out, no table, no day really, in Georgia is deemed complete without this bread, and I should know. On my last trip there, I was presented with so much khachapuri, I felt like a cheese-filled boat myself by the end.
Georgians have been hooked for centuries, but surprisingly little written history exists on the origins of their beloved dish. Today, the term (“khacho” for curd and “puri” for bread) is simply a catchall for the various versions that exist throughout the country. To get you acquainted, I present to you four of my favorites.
From the central region of Imereti, these round pies are so ubiquitous that Georgian economists have even created a Khachapuri Index—using its cost of ingredients to gauge inflation and the strength of the economy. Cooked on the stovetop and filled with buttery Imeruli cheese, this soft, tender pastry melts in your mouth.
Not satisfied with a simple curd filling, the people of Samegrelo take Imeruli khachapuri one step further. After stuffing and griddling the pies, they blanket them with another layer of Imeruli cheese and melty, elastic suluguni (Georgia’s answer to mozzarella) before baking them.
Hailing from the Black Sea region of Adjaria, this version, referred to as lodachka (“little boat” in Russian) by the locals, has single-handedly put khachapuri on the map. The golden vessel emerges from the oven cradling a bright runny yolk in a pool of molten suluguni and Imeruli curds. A healthy pat of butter is nestled atop before serving—at which point hungry eaters tear off the thick, crunchy ends and use them to swirl the egg and butter into the cheese.
These turnovers of shatteringly crisp pastry and melted cheese and egg are a common street food. At home, we use sheets of puff pastry to approximate the labor-intensive dough and feta and mozzarella for the filling. Warning: you can’t stop at one.
Photo Credit: Polina Chesnakova