Khinkali Making at Culinarium Cooking School
Beautifully twisted knobs of dough, stuffed with meat and spices, mushrooms, or cheese – this is what was on the menu for our Master Khinkali Making Cooking Class. Culinarium is Located in a cozy building in the historic center of Tbilisi behind a big yellow door. As we open the door, we were warmly welcomed by Master Chef (?) and her staff to take part in an exciting local tradition of Khinkali making.
Upon entering, I quickly noticed how beautifully designed the cooking space was. The room was flooded with light from several large windows and a large preparation table was neatly set with 15 individual prep stations, plants, and positive vibes. Each station had a recipe, an apron, and all the necessary tools and ingredients to take part in our cooking lesson. Each participant choose their location around the table, suited themselves up with an apron, and were served a freshly made berry-mint homemade lemonade. Now, let the lesson begin.
During the next two hours, everyone worked together while following step by step instructions from the chef. First, we watched as the chef mixed together flour, salt, warm water, and an egg to prepare the dough for our soon to be handcrafted dumpling bundles of tastefulness. We were each given a lump of dough to roll out. This was much harder than I imagined. Once rolled out, we used a circular object to “cut” mini circles from the dough. Each mini circle was then further rolled out into a very thin larger circle. We placed these aside and moved onto the second step.
Next step was the preparation of the fillings. I chose to work with the meat filling. Spices and herbs were folded into the fresh minced pork and set aside. Gently, recovering my thinly rolled out dough circles, I distributed them on to my wood working space. I then placed a spoonful of meat filling in the center of each “circle”. I was excited to learn the next step – How to pleat the dough into a beautiful Khinkali.
Very carefully, the chef demonstrated how to gather the dough by creating mini folds together to create neat little bundles. I have to say, once you get the hang of it and don’t let go, it’s a pretty straight forward art. I was once told 3 years ago when we began our adventure in Georgia, the number of pleats a woman is able to create identifies her value as a wife. What do you think? Though the woman at Culinarium were unable to verify this information, I did my best to create numerous pleats because every woman wants to be considered a good wife, right? Once you’ve closed up your little bundles, you are meant to squeeze the top and pinch off the excess dough. I didn’t really have any, but still gave my best effort to pitch a little for good measures.
Last step, gently place little bundles in salty boiling water. Once they float, they are done and ready to be plated. Just like that, I fished my khinkali out of the water and put them on my plate. Then, one by one, after sprinkling them with a bit of black pepper and red chili flakes, I used my hands and ate each one.
There seems to be some etiquette when it comes to eating these and I can imagine it would depend on the situation. However, traditionally they are eaten by picking them up from the knob at the top, flipping them over (bottoms up), sucking the juice out of them, and eating away. I have also seen people pick them up by stabbing a fork into the knob, giving the khinkali a flip, and then eating them as normal. Maybe after a few drinks, the eating style becomes a bit more rustic. Who knows, but does it really matter?