Musings on my life and experiences in Georgia...the country, not the state.
Monday, November 15, 2010
Good Eats - Puri
A dedication to bread has been here long overdue. It is a truth universally acknowledged (by all who have tasted it) that if you actually want good bread in America you have to either find an authentic european bakery (preferably French or Italian) or research artisanal breads and learn to make them yourself. Sadly most Americans have never tasted real bread, preferring instead to partake of the store bought variety. This, of course, comes to you "bakery fresh" in plastic bags and with enough preservatives in it to keep it safe in said plastic for inordinate lengths of time. The true tragedy here is not that Americans have never tasted real bread, but that they are blithely oblivious to the fact. I say all of this not to condemn but out of a heartfelt sympathy for my fellow countrymen, and as a recent convert to the world beyond Wonderbread.
I could literally eat Georgian bread, or puri (კური) all day. Here at home we eat a type called lavishi (ლავაში). It's oval-shaped and rather flat, no more than 3/4 of an inch in its dense center and growing to only double that wher
e big air bubble form within. It kind of looks like someone took pizza dough and stretched it longways a bit too far. But it's oh, soo much better than pizza dough. I have been trying to think of a way to describe this bread that would do it justice but I'm afraid I lack the skill. So, knowing that you really just have to taste it to know, I'll venture to do my best.
The first bite is what grabs you. There is the slightest hint of something sweet, a faint taste of something like cinnamon. From there, there is a subtle buttery flavor that defies you to stop eating. You can't, of course. Eaten alone, or with butter, honey or jam, or used to soak up the savory juices of whatever you are eating, it is practically perfect in every way. Good thing it's served at every meal. Piled high on a plate we just grab a slice, tear off a piece and enjoy!
The other variety of this classic Georgian staple is called shoti (შოთი). It is baked in the boat shape seen before in the ajarulian khachapuri and can be acquired, freshly baked, on nearly every street. In fact, you can't go too far down the street without running into someone carrying one, or more of these strange loaves tucked up under their arm. My favorite is seeing hundreds of these loaves packed into the back seat of a car (not as uncommon a sight as you'd think), clearly making their way from some remote bakery to be sold in town.
And just when I thought that Georgian bread couldn't get any better, I had nazuki (ნაზაქი) tonight with tea. It had all the wonderful characteristics that make lavishi so amazing (the texture, the shape, the yummy air bubbles...yes, air bubbles can be yummy) but this was the sweet bread version. It was spiced, had raisins, and to top it all off, it was glazed with honey! It was gone in minutes.
Whatever way it comes, lavishi, shoti, or nazuki, Georgian bread (kartuli puri) is wonderfully good eats.