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Feel the Spice Power of Adzhika

Have you ever tried adzhika, the salsa and chili of the Caucasian cuisine?

One of the most popular among many excellent Caucasian sauces, condiments and gravies, adzhika has a very particular taste that distinguishes it from European-style sauces. Widely known as a Georgian specialty, adzhika's origin is also claimed by Armenians and Dagestanis, while more distant experts would say that it was invented by the Turks.

Whatever its origins, adzhika's ingredients vary from republic to republic and moreover, from one cook to another. The main ingredients of every different kind of adzhika are finely ground red pepper and garlic. As both of these are good preservatives, adzhika can be kept without refrigeration for quite a long time.

It is hard to find a classic adzhika recipe, because ingredients may be substituted and proportions are usually measured na glaz, or roughly.

Walking around a marketplace you usually see adzhika sold in Russian mayonnaise jars or small vodka bottles. It comes in a liquid form with fresh tomatoes or peeled plums put through a mincing machine. These are added instead of vinegar for a delicate, slightly sweet and sour taste. In this case the sauce has a greenish-yellow or brown color.

A more liquid adzhika typically contains finely chopped greens such as parsley, kinza, or coriander, and tarkhun and regan, kinds of mint.

This type of adzhika is best served with dolma, or stuffed vine leaves, grilled shashlyk, or can be used to enliven stews and even as an oddly pleasant topping for fresh melon.

There is a thicker, drier variety, mostly consisting of hot red pepper and garlic with minced sweet pepper and a spoonful of tomato puree.

Walnuts, finely ground in a stone mortar together with spices, are often used as a base for many Caucasian sauces, including adzhika.

One of the nut-based sauces is the Georgian sotsibeli, made of 250 grams of peeled walnuts, two cloves of garlic, half a cup of greens and a teaspoonful of ground red pepper. The walnuts are dried in the oven and crushed with the other ingredients in a mortar to the consistency of a thick paste. It is then thoroughly mixed with half a cup of hot beef or chicken bouillon, and diluted with the same amount of pomegranate or lemon juice.

If you are puzzled over certain food items found in Russia, please e-mail Julia Solovyova at or fax her at 257-3211.

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