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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WHAT IS IT? : Hoof Broth, Vodka Make Lively Georgian Breakfast




Georgian cuisine is well-known and loved all over the globe, but there is one dish that is quintessentially Caucasian and unknown to all but a few outsiders. This is khashi.


It is easy to see why the recipe has remained obscure. Khashi is a thick bouillon made from cow's hooves and offal that have been rubbed in corn flour and boiled for 12 hours on a low heat. Khashi is served piping hot, sprinkled with herbs and accompanied by homemade cheese, unleavened lavash bread and a carafe of vodka -- and all this first thing in the morning.


Many food-loving Georgians start their day with khashi. It is solely a morning food, never found on a restaurant's lunch menu. In Georgia, khashi is served from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. -- perfect for factory workers who need to sober up before their morning shift begins.


Georgians claim khashi really good for you. For those who over-indulge, khashi is said to provide the alcohol-damaged inside of your stomach with a soothing layer of fat. It is also supposed to be good for bones and joints. There is a story of a doctor who prescribed khashi to a woman with a broken arm and the fracture miraculously healed.


Determined to sample this intriguing dish, one Sunday morning I banged on the door of Gruzinskaya Trapeza, a small Georgian eatery on the Garden Ring near the Smolenskaya metro station and one of the few places in Moscow that serves khashi. Zaira, a friendly, blue-eyed refugee from Abkhazia who owns the place, let us in, complaining that the influx of khashniki, customers looking for their favorite morning treat, prevented her from having a day off after a big party the night before.


We walked into a cozy room and sat next to a group of educated Moscow Georgians in their late 50s, assimilated to the point of speaking Russian among themselves. These khashi enthusiasts were having a full-blown breakfast: The table was covered with plates, and they were drinking vodka and wine. It was 11 a.m. After a breakfast like this they would probably go home for a siesta, to return to their institutes on Monday morning to write articles and do research. Zaira served us the delicious-smelling khashi. With the soup came grated garlic and bowls of vinegar and milk to be stirred into the soup if desired.


Each bowl contained a thick broth in which floated pieces of stiff, yellowish gristle and thick chunks of offal. The friend I had dragged along for an ethnic breakfast experience expressed the faint hope that these were just for decoration. On the contrary, Zaira said that the bits of animal insides were the finest part of the meal.


It took no courage to try the bland, fatty broth, but when we tried to persuade each other to sample the offal we soon gave up, promising to return with a hangover, which reputedly stimulates the desire to eat the stuff. To our relief, Zaira later confessed she is a vegetarian.


Sitting next to the other khashniki, we listened to them talking about the origins of khashi -- an Arab invention that spread through the Caucasus -- and what a great excuse it provides for getting together with friends on a weekend morning.


Just the thought of a bowl of greasy khashi and vodka for breakfast would sends shivers down the spines of most diet-conscious Western consumers. But it is hard to persuade someone to give up a food he considers part of his national heritage.


If you are puzzled over certain food items found in Russia, please e-mail Julia Solovyova at solovyova@imedia.ru.