Khachapuri is probably the most famous Georgian dish, and for good reason. It is incredibly simple to make and very tasty. If you like cheese and bread, you will love this dish.
There are several different varieties of khachapuri but they are all variations on the same idea: cheese stuffed with bread. Adjaruli is a boat-shaped bread filled with cheese and topped with egg and butter, mixed before serving. Megruli is a round-shaped bread filled with cheese and/or egg, sometimes with cheese on top. If you have enough dough and cheese, you can make both types at the same time.
In Georgia, khachapuri is filled with Georgian cheese, typically suluguni. I use a mix of mozzarella and feta or goat cheese. The idea is a cheese with the consistency and melt of mozzarella but with saltiness and tang. If using goat cheese, I would not use the rind.
Cheese (equal parts mozzarella and feta or goat cheese)
Butter (optional, for adjaruli)
1. Make a dough out of flour, warm water, yeast, and salt. Knead this for ten minutes, then rest covered in a warm place for 1 hour.
2. Mix your cheeses together with an egg white and a bit of salt depending on how salty your cheeses are. Mix well until you have produced a cheese mix of solid consistency.
3. When your dough has finished resting, take a piece and roll it out into an oblong shape. Not too thick or thin, maybe 1/2 cm thick.
4. Roll the long edges of the dough inwards and press the ends together to make the boat shape. Experiment with shapes; some people make a more fat and round shape, some twist the ends together, etc.
5. Fill the dough boat with cheese. You can brush the dough with egg yolk if you want the resulting bread to have an extra golden crust.
6. Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the filled dough onto a pan lined with parchment paper or oiled foil. (It may be easier to fill the dough directly on the pan so you don’t need to move it). Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown.
7. Take the bread out, make a small indentation in the middle of the cheese, and crack an egg onto it. Return the pan to the oven and let it bake for a few minutes longer until the egg white has set.
8. Cut two slices of butter and stick into the cheese on each side of the egg. Mix everything together well before eating.
3. When your dough has finished resting, take a piece and roll it out into a round shape. Not too thick or thin, maybe 1/2 cm thick. Place a ball of cheese on top. You can mix the cheese together with egg yolk, but make sure it doesn’t get too runny.
4. Fold up the edges of your dough around the ball of cheese.
5. Press down to flatten the ball into a round disc of dough. Flip the dough back and forth a couple times to widen out the disc.
6. (Optional) Brush the top of the bread with egg yolk and sprinkle some extra cheese on top.
7. Rip a little hole in the top of the bread. This is an important step that will prevent the bread from rising up and bursting inside the oven.
8. Preheat the oven to 450F. Place the filled dough onto a pan lined with parchment paper or oiled foil. Bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown.
Lahmacun (pronounced “lah – ma – joon”) is a thin, crisp flatbread with a spicy ground meat topping baked directly into the crust, similar to a pizza. I know it from Turkey, but a similar dish is eaten in Armenia and in Middle Eastern countries, where it is also known as “manakeesh.” Some people roll it up and eat it like a shawarma; sometimes it is served sliced up into squares. In Turkey, when you order this dish, they serve you many pizzas at a time all stacked up, usually with some lemon to squeeze onto it.
It’s not an Uyghur or even Central Asian food – the closest thing in Uyghur cuisine is probably gosht nan or meat nan, which is more like a pie. But it is simple, tasty, and uses ingredients you can find in Central Asian cooking: meat, tomatoes, bell peppers, chilies, cilantro. I have no doubt lahmacun would be a hit in Urumqi. Consider it a dish from the far western end of the Silk Road.
Ingredients (makes 4-5 medium-sized pizzas) For the topping:
1/2 lb ground meat – Beef, lamb, or a mix.
1 medium onion
1 bell pepper
1 large tomato
1 head of garlic
Cilantro or parsley
Red pepper paste – This is a Turkish product and can be difficult to find. It has a sweet, smoky heat and a consistency similar to tomato paste. Middle Eastern grocers might carry it; I bought it in Kalustyan’s. Chili garlic paste, commonly available in Asian groceries, makes a decent substitute.
Tomato paste – optional if you use the red pepper paste and some diced tomatoes. Adds sweetness.
Red Chili Flakes
For the dough:
Flour (All purpose or bread flour)
Dough Making: 1. This is the standard flour/water/yeast/salt dough. In a large bowl, make a big mountain of flour, maybe one glassful. Make a depression in the flour and pour in warm water and about 1/3-1/2 packet of dry yeast.
2. Mix up the dough, adding water or flour as needed until you have a solid mass that you can work with your hands without sticking. Knead a few minutes until it is fairly firm and does not stick to your hands. Form it into a ball.
3. Lightly oil the inside of a bowl, put the dough ball inside, and cover with a cloth or plastic wrap. Let rest for about an hour.
Topping Making: 1. Finely dice the onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, and cilantro. You can blend these to make the topping smoother, but it isn’t required. Put into a container with the ground meat. Add the salt, pepper, paprika, red pepper paste and/or tomato paste, chili flakes, and oil. Mix everything well.
Pizza Making: This recipe assumes a pizza stone, but if you don’t have one, a baking pan with oiled foil or wax paper should work.
1. Take some dough and flatten it out on a well-floured surface. The dough should be almost paper-thin – much thinner than Americans are used to in pizza. You can stretch the dough on your fingertips and toss it from hand to hand to thin it out.
2. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F, then lower the temperature to 480 F.
3. Flour the pizza peel and put the dough onto the peel. Be very quick about the next step – the dough can start to stick if it sits too long.
4. Spread the topping onto the dough in a thin layer, pressing gently so it sticks, but not so hard that the dough sticks to the peel.
It’s much easier to add the topping when the dough is on the peel, than try to move the dough with toppings onto the peel.
5. Put the pizza onto the stone. If you have never used a pizza peel before, touch the end of the peel to the far end of the stone, then lift the handle so the peel is sloping downwards. The pizza should start to slide off. Briskly shake the peel as you pull it out of the oven and the pizza should settle onto the stone.
6. The pizza bakes relatively fast – around 6-7 minutes or until the edges are golden brown and the topping has been bubbling all over for a few minutes. Serve as-is or with some lemon slices and salad. Afiyet olsun!