Lactose-free Georgian Cuisine

by Snezhana Sitnikova

What is the first thing that pops into your head when it comes to Georgian cuisine? Probably, khachapuri, which contains a cheese mixture to die for, shredded Mozzarella for that gooey cheese stretch, Feta for a flavorful depth and Ricotta for a creamy edge, or matsoni (yoghurt that is made from a mix of cow’s, goat’s, sheep’s and buffalo milk). If you have just ended up in a lactose coma, this review will definitely be a kind of resurrection.

Lactose intolerance is a common digestive problem where the body is unable to digest lactose, a type of sugar mainly found in milk and dairy products.

Believe it or not, most adults can’t digest milk – 40 % of humans stop producing enough lactase (an enzyme that breaks down lactose so we can absorb it into our bodies) between the ages of 2 and 5. Let’s have a look at Georgian cuisine from their viewpoint. The restaurant my family and I decided to visit is called “Kinza” (the name refers to a green herb that is used in many dishes and also known as coriander). Unfortunately, the grey building “Kinza” is located in has actually nothing to do with the national coloring. It is situated in the downtown of Izhevsk and has a small minimalistic outdoor zone with soft sofas.

However, it only takes stepping inside to see the interior that looks as if it was brought straight from Georgia. Tomato and cucumber pickles, colorful garlic, paprika, and pimentos combinations predict the rich flavor of the dishes. Moreover, in “Kinza” you can find attributes of Georgian life and take a photo with them, as my mother and I did in shepherd’s papaq.

Luckily, the food we ordered arrived in no more than 20 minutes. I started with chicken khashlama, which is a boiled dish that somehow reminded me of a light summer soup. As for me, I have always enjoyed eating soft-tasted food, but as long as you are looking for something strong-flavored and extraordinary, I will definitely not recommend this one.

A few minutes later, a devastatingly handsome waiter with black charming curls came to us with a dish the whole family was waiting for. Of course, it was khinkali. Those steamy, flavourful dumplings filled with a tender mix of beef and pork were appreciated even by my little brother. This 6-year-old harsh critic ate two of them, which is actually a great quality mark. It is also important to mention the portion size: each khinkali weighs no less than 100g.

I finished my meal with a cod fillet baked on the layers of zucchini and tomatoes. Tender, perfectly flaky cod, tossed in bold spices and baked with a tasty garlic and lemon sauce, almost melted in my mouth. I was deeply disappointed about being already full and not able to eat more than a half of it.

Overall, a nourishing lunch for a group of four in «Kinza» cost 2400 roubles. It's not expensive at all, even for Izhevsk.

Honestly, I cannot say it is possible to feel the Georgian cuisine deeply and to follow a lactose-free diet at the same time. However, that's no reason not to try some alternative dishes. Provided you are going to visit Izhevsk one day, I will highly recommend that codfish in «Kinza».