This cuisine is unique. It took shape in the process of shaping the history of its people, which unwittingly stretched out over several centuries. Local dishes are distinguished not only by their amazing taste, but also by the high quality of the products from which they are prepared. The best confirmation of this is the longevity for which the Abkhazians themselves are famous. Nevertheless, tourists need to be very careful with the local food. Simply because, out of habit, their stomachs may not accept it.
Abkhazia is fabulously rich in fertile soils, which give the locals a good harvest due to the mild climate. And it has been the case since antiquity. There is also a legend according to which one day God called representatives of all the peoples of the world in order to divide the land between them. Then the Abkhaz came later than everyone else. Of course, everything was already divided, besides the seas and deserts, and he would have left with nothing, if not for one “but”. He explained his lateness by the fact that he could not refuse to receive a guest who visited his house that day, because guests are sacred for his people. God liked the hospitality of the Abkhazians and he gave them the most blessed piece of land, once left for himself. They called it Abkhazia, in honor of the Abkhaz himself. The history of this country and the history of its cuisine began from that moment.
Since ancient times, the main occupations of local residents have been agriculture and cattle breeding. At first, millet, corn were grown here, domestic animals were raised, which were given dairy products. After that they took up gardening, viticulture, beekeeping, horticulture. Thus, an important place in the diet of the Abkhazians was assigned to vegetables and fruits, grapes, walnuts, honey, and melons. On their tables they always had and still have dairy products, meat, mainly chickens, turkeys, geese and ducks. True, besides them, they like goat meat, lamb, beef, game and do not accept horse meat, oysters, crayfish and mushrooms. Even to this day, some residents are still wary of fish. Some time ago, Muslim Abkhazians did not eat pork.
Features of Abkhaz cuisine
Distinctive features of Abkhaz cuisine are:
- extensive use of spices and hot seasonings. Any dish, be it a vegetable salad, meat or even dairy products, is flavored with dried or fresh coriander, basil, dill, parsley, mint. Thanks to this, they acquire a specific aroma and amazing taste;
- love for spicy sauces, or asyzbal. They are prepared not only with tomatoes, but also with cherry plum, barberry, pomegranate, grapes, walnuts and even sour milk;
- division of food into flour, or agukha, and the one that is used with it – acyfa;
- moderate salt intake. It is interesting that here it is replaced by adjika. It is a pasty condiment made from red pepper, garlic, spices and a pinch of salt. Adjika is eaten with meat and vegetables, and sometimes with melon;
- addiction to dairy products. True, most of all Abkhazians love milk. They drink it mainly boiled or sour (fermented). Moreover, the latter is made not only from cow’s milk, but also from goat and buffalo. All of them, by the way, are not inferior to each other in terms of quality characteristics. Sour milk with honey is considered a healthy and tasty drink for children and the elderly in Abkhazia, and thirst is quenched here with sour milk and water, diluted in proportions 50:50. In addition to him, they love cheeses, cream, cottage cheese.
- active use of honey. It is eaten alone or as part of other dishes and drinks, including those used in traditional medicine.
- lack of fatty foods. Abkhazians love ghee, butter, nut and sunflower oils, but they add them very sparingly.
Basic cooking methods:
Despite the abundance of food products, there are no more than 40 dishes in the Abkhaz cuisine. All of them can and should be mentioned, but over the years of their existence, the following have been included in the category of national ones:
Hominy. A thick or thin cornmeal porridge without salt, which can be served with or without peanut butter. It practically does not differ from the hominy known in Romania. Moreover, the locals also hold it in high esteem, since it actually replaces bread for them. It is consumed with salty cheeses such as suluguni.
Matsoni is a drink for the preparation of which milk is boiled, cooled, and then sourdough is added to it. It is highly valued by the locals as it contains vitamins, minerals, amino acids and beneficial bacteria.
Adjika is the queen of the Abkhazian table, whose recipes are passed down from generation to generation. Nevertheless, the locals know some secrets that they readily use in the process of cooking. For example, if you remove the seeds from the pepper before drying and smoking the pepper, the adjika will acquire a mild taste, and if not, it will be very spicy. It is interesting that if our dear guests are told “bread and salt”, then among the Abkhazians – “achedzhika”, which means “bread-adjika”. One legend is also connected with the history of its appearance: earlier, shepherds gave salt to animals so that they were constantly thirsty, as a result of which they constantly ate and drank. But salt itself was expensive, so it was mixed with pepper and spices.
Boiled or fried corn is a treat. Other desserts include candied fruits, jams, and oriental sweets.
Khachapuri – cakes with cheese.
Akud is a dish made from boiled beans with spices, served with hominy.
Achapa – salad of green beans, cabbage, beets with walnuts.
Abkhazian wine and chacha (grape vodka) are the pride of the national cuisine.
Spit-fried meat. Most often these are carcasses of lambs or kids stuffed with cheese with spices and finely chopped entrails or not.
Millet or bean soups. Apart from them, there are no other hot liquid dishes in Abkhazia.
Lamb meat boiled in milk.
Useful properties of Abkhaz cuisine
Despite the huge amount of tasty and healthy food in the diet of the Abkhazians, they themselves have never been gluttonous. Moreover, alcohol abuse was also condemned by them. Nevertheless, this did not prevent them from building their own norms and rules of behavior while eating. They eat slowly, in a friendly atmosphere, without unnecessary conversations. The main meals are in the morning and evening, when the whole family is together.
A huge advantage of Abkhazian cuisine is the moderation of salt, the prevalence of low-fat dishes and a large amount of vegetables and fruits. Perhaps these and other features have become the determining factors of Abkhazian longevity. Today the average life expectancy here is 77 years.