08/26/13 12:30pm

Khinkali topped with ajika from Brick Oven Bread. Photo by Anne Noyes Saini.

Like many cuisines nurtured in mountainous places, Georgian food is notably meat-intensive. So I wasn’t surprised when the counterman at Brick Oven Bread, a Georgian bakery, laughed at my request for meatless khinkali.

Georgia’s famous boiled dumplings, which bear an uncanny resemblance to Shanghai xiao long bao (aka, soup dumplings) or Himalayan momo, are almost always filled with ground beef, pork, or lamb—especially in New York City, where affordable meat is easily procured. (In Georgia, khinkali filled with mushroom, potato, and cheese are not uncommon.)

But then the woman behind the counter spoke up: “I make them stuffed with cheese for myself. Would like to try some?” (more…)

06/17/13 9:57am

Condiments are the spice of life, and every food culture has its own particular favorites.

Many of these—Mexican salsa verde, Indian mango chutney, Korean chili paste (aka, gochujang)—have found a place in American kitchens. But others are still hovering in the wings, awaiting their big mealtime breakthrough.

These (as yet) lesser-known condiments from throughout the world are a few of my favorites.


Photo: Simple Comfort Food/Dax Phillips.

1. Ajvar (pronounced “EE-vaar”)
This mash of sweet roasted red peppers, earthy roasted eggplant, garlic, and varying amounts of spicy chilies is eaten throughout the Balkan countries. It can be served as a dip, eaten with meats or fish, tossed with pasta, or simply smeared on sandwiches. In Astoria and other New York neighborhoods with large Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian communities, mass-produced ajvars are easy to find in any grocery store—or try making it at home.

Guasacaca. Serious Eats/Joshua Bousel.

Photo: Serious Eats/Joshua Bousel.

2. Guasacaca
There are many different ways to make Venezuela’s creamier, tangier cousin to Mexican guacamole. The simplest version blends avocado with ample onion, garlic, and cilantro, as well as mild chilies, oil, and vinegar. In Venezuela guasacaca is eaten with meats—like a relish. But if you manage to procure some from a Venezuelan restaurant here in New York (my go-to is Arepas Café in Astoria), you can’t go wrong smearing this addictive sauce on pretty much anything. (more…)