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Khinkali, the Georgian dumpling

By Salome Modebadze
Friday, July 9
Khinkali is beautifully twisted Georgian dough, usually stuffed with meat and spices, served boiled or steamed. The mountain regions in the eastern part of Georgia such as Pshavi, Khevsureti and Mtiuleti are particularly famous for their khinkali, which are eaten plain or with coarse black pepper. The meat filling is uncooked when the Khinkali are assembled, so when cooked the meat's juices are trapped inside the dumpling. To eat one, you must suck out the juice while taking the first bite or the Khinkali will burst.

The topknot, where the pleats meet, is tough and sometimes not eaten, but discarded on the plate so that those eating can count how many they have consumed. Sprinkle them with black pepper, grab them by the topknot and turn them upside down. Take small bites from the side, slurping broth as you go. The trick is to eat them without making a mess of yourself.

Khinkali are made with a variety of fillings. In the mountains the choice is usually ground lamb, since that is most readily available, but elsewhere the filling is more often a mixture of beef or pork. These dumplings may also be filled with cheese and/or greens.

One trick to making good dumplings is to mix the flour with warm water, which yields a more tender dough. Shaping the dumplings is also important, too, and takes some skill. Pleats are important. The idea is to make as many pleats as possible as you bunch the dough around the filling: anything less than 20 is considered amateurish.

Khinkali are served hot, with no garnish other than coarsely ground black pepper. Some food writers lay the topknots apart and after finishing the dumplings sprinkle soya on the dumpling tops and eat them with chopsticks.

To make 25 dumplings follow the instructions:

4 cups of unbleached white flour
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/4 cups of warm water
1 pound of mixed ground beef and pork (not too lean)
1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
Pinch or two of cayenne
1/4 teaspoon of ground caraway seed
3 small onions, peeled
1/2 cup of warm water or beef bouillon

Combine the flour, salt and warm water to make firm dough. Knead for 5 minutes, then let it sit, covered, for 30 to 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Mix the ground meats and spices. Grind the onions and stir them into the meat mixture. With your hands, knead in water or bouillon.

Divide the dough into 25 pieces. On a floured board, roll each piece out to a 6-inch round. Place about 2 tablespoons of filling in the centre of each round. Make accordion pleats all the way around the filling by folding the edges of the dough in toward the centre. Move in a clockwise direction, allowing each fold of dough to overlap the previous one until the filling is completely enclosed in the pleated dough. Holding the dumpling firmly in one hand, twist the pleats together at the centre to seal, breaking off the excess dough at the topknot.

Cook the dumplings in salted, boiling water for 12 to 15 minutes. Serve hot. If you do not finish all of the dumplings during one sitting, they are better the next day, fried in butter for breakfast.