Georgia's Traditional Kharcho Soup Features Tart Plum Flavors

bowl of kharcho with garnish
bowl of kharcho with garnish - smspsy/Shutterstock

If you like thick, spicy, flavorful soup, you'll love the aromatic experience of kharcho. Though the traditional Georgian recipe is associated with beef -- Its name translates to "beef soup" -- lamb, veal, and other kinds of meat are also used in modern recipes. In addition to the meat component, a tangy, zesty element is created through the inclusion of plum tkemali or dried dogwood. Pieces of walnuts are added to the broth for extra texture and taste. Georgian cuisine has a propensity for adding walnuts into recipes, and soup is no exception.

In its original form, fatty beef on the bone was plopped into pots of kharcho and left to simmer on stove tops for hours at a time. Similar to many other soup recipes, the specific ingredients, spice profile, and thickness of the final product can all vary widely when you sample this hearty soup from different Georgian chefs.

Read more: 41 Best Soup Recipes

The Origins Of Kharcho Soup

Kharcho surrounded by fresh ingredients
Kharcho surrounded by fresh ingredients - Mikhail_Dragunov/Shutterstock

Like many old-fashioned dishes, pinpointing the exact origin of kharcho soup remains a bit of a culinary mystery. The term first referred to a recipe for meat prepared in a walnut sauce. Over time, rice was added to the dish, and then plum sauce became a key feature of the meal. Though the recipe has evolved to include different ingredients contributed by unique communities, the core beef, nuts, and tkemali essence of the soup has persevered over time.

Depending on where you taste kharcho, you may experience regional differences in the flavor of the soup. In some areas, additional spices and herbs are added, tomato sauce might replace actual tomatoes, or pomegranate juice could be included in the pot while simmering. Another key regional difference is the inclusion of an herb blend known as Svanetian salt, which consists of salt, garlic, and various dried herbs and spices.

How Kharcho Is Made

garnished bowl of soup
garnished bowl of soup - smspsy/Shutterstock

A zingy plum sauce known as tkemali is a key component of the soup. This fruity component is made from plums that haven't quite reached full ripeness, and the sour taste helps balance out the richness of the dish. Coriander, fenugreek, and black pepper bring a warming element to the soup in a mix known as khmeli suneli.

When cooked with tomatoes, garlic, onion, cumin, and bay leaves, this satisfying recipe truly delivers. If you plan to make kharcho at home, be warned that it can take several hours to put this recipe together. The beef must be seared before it can be added to the broth, the plum purée needs to cook for at least an hour after it's added to the broth, and then the rest of the ingredients are added to the mix and left to simmer for a minimum of one additional hour if not longer. It takes a lot of work, but the final product is well worth the effort. When garnished with fresh herbs, the tart and sweet kharcho consistently delivers in terms of both texture and taste.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.