Khinkali, Goodwill Ambassador
Love of khinkali, the Georgian dumplings, seems to be the one thing Armenians and Georgians can agree on. Georgians may have gotten their alphabet from the Armenian saint Mesrob Mashtots, but Armenians tried the Georgian delicacy and made it a national favorite. Despite both being Christian nations in the Caucasus, the two countries have political differences which hinder what should otherwise be a friendly relationship. But when it comes to khinkali, what's to argue about? This Georgian import is made with great relish in specialized restaurants in the Armenian capital of Yerevan.
Khinkali are oversized soup dumplings filled with herbs, ground meat, usually pork in Armenia, and savory broth. A hefty sprinkling of black pepper is added just before taking the first luscious bite where you drink the ambrosial broth. You hold khinkali with your fingers, never using utensils which would risk squandering the broth. You inhale it in several euphoric bites, leaving the thick pleated top knot on your plate as mute evidence of your khinkali eating prowess. Our Armenian friends scoffed at my pathetic inability to eat more than three. Our friend Hayk tells the legendary story of the one hundred khinkali eating boast. You can probably imagine the nasty result that followed that boyish escapade.
When you visit Yerevan, be sure to try some khinkali, though maybe not a platter of one hundred. As for me, I prefer my three khinkali with a side of the spicy tomato sauce over roasted chili peppers, leaving room for some of Yerevan's delicious soft serve ice cream on the walk home.