In particular, isrim-makvali sauce stands out, with an equivalent difficult to find anywhere. This exceptional sauce is made by natives of Imereti who use grapes that are not yet quite ripe, giving it a somewhat sour taste, along with blackberries.
Pullet (young hen) in isrim-makvali is brimming with Imeretian character and imagination. When visiting Imereti’s towns Zestafoni, Kharagauli, Terjola, or Tkibuli, or even its main city you know you’re an honored guest when someone orders “put the pullet into the isrim-makvali.”
Pullet in isrim-makvali is a seasonal dish, mainly made when the grapes are starting to change. Indeed, grapes on the verge of ripeness and ripe blackberries are often kept in the refrigerator by prudent households, so that they can make this culinary masterpiece all-year-round.
According to the Ethnographic Dictionary of Georgia, the following are synonyms for isrimi: “shemousvleli,” “umtsipari,” “zholoka,” “bzhoki,” and “mkvakhe.” In the opinion of famous historian and linguist Ivane Javakhisvhili, isrimi came about from vines being weighed down with excessive fruit, because Georgians could not bear to throw away any grapes, even unripe ones, so they made a sauce from them.
If you want to experience this dish in the most authentic way possible, it should be sampled in its native Imereti, where they abide by an old and original recipe, whereby the pullet must be cooked in its own juices on a ketsi (a traditional earthenware pan).
Isrim-makvali sauce is made in other regions of Georgia as well, and is most often served with fried poultry. In some places, green grapes and blackberries are used separately to make the sauce, but in Imereti, these two flavorful ingredients are combined, along with spices and garlic, to create an inimitable taste.
To make this dish you will need:
1 medium-sized pullet;
300 g isrimi (unripe grapes);
500 g blackberries;
3-4 cloves of garlic;
1 bunch of fresh coriander including seeds;
10 g dill;
1 tsp ground pepper; and
Salt to taste.
Cut a well-cleaned and rinsed pullet through the breast, opening it up completely. Then put in a mixture of salt and pepper. Let it sit for a few minutes, then fry it on a ketsi. If you do not have a ketsi, then bake it in an oven. If you have no other option, use a thick pan with oil, placing a weight on top of it, and frying it well on both sides on a medium heat.
An Imeretian, if sharing this recipe, will make it clear that, first of all, you must place the pullet face down when frying it, and then, to make sure it gets nice and crispy, smear butter over the top. Thereafter, prepare the spices before the pullet has browned.
Put the crushed grapes through a sieve, or press them through gauze to remove the seeds and skin. Do the same for the blackberries. Then, mix the blackberries and grapes together and add finely-chopped coriander, dill, salt, ground pepper, and crushed or minced garlic, and mix them all together well. Many people choose to add a cup of minced almonds to the sauce to balance the taste.
The fried chicken should then be cut and smeared with the sauce before being brought to the table. If some of the dish left over, then the next day you can see how the meat absorbs the bright color and flavor of the blackberries. For this reason, many claim that pullet in isrim-makvali is even more delicious the day after it is made.