We like spicy food. A lot. But, we’ve found in our travels that different places in the world have have various approaches to spiciness and heat. In Thailand or Mexico, spicy salsa or Nam Pla are always available to heat up a dish. Other cultures don’t enjoy spiciness as much as we do. We’ve even started carrying around a hidden bottle of hot sauce so we can sneak it onto more bland food when we go out.
When we arrived in the country of Georgia, we knew we were in for a delicious culinary experience. We had learned about sumptuous dumplings (khingali) and light, fluffy fresh bread stuffed with cheese from friends who had visited previously. What we didn’t know was if our spicy itch would be scratched. And then, to our delight, we discovered ajika.
Ajika (or adjika) is a spicy sauce or condiment made with chile peppers and lots of herbs. It originated in Samegrelo and Abkhazia regions of Georgia, and the name itself comes from the Abkhaz word for “salt”. But this isn’t just salty. It’s full of fresh flavors and it can be killer spicy, too!
There are a lot of different variations of ajika sauce, which is sometimes referred to as Georgian pesto. The recipes vary in ingredients, some with tomato, and of course in heat, based on the number and types of peppers used. Our favorite (below) is the green ajika, which relies heavily on coriander (or cilantro) and, in our version, jalapenos. Our recipe also calls for a typical Georgian spice, Khmeli Suneli, which is a Georgian curry made with blue fenugreek, ground marigold flowers and other spices. You can find it is the international section of some grocery stores, or alternatively use equal parts of tumeric, ground coriander and blue fenugreek.
Of course, Georgians go one further and don’t just use ajika as a condiment. There are a number of recipes that use it, but you’ll find a variation of ribs cooked in ajika in most In Georgian restaurants. The typical recipe calls for veal ribs, but beef ribs can be easily substituted.
To adjust the spiciness of the recipe, change the number of jalepenos or remove some/all of the seeds.
- 2 lbs. beef or veal ribs, on the bone
- 1 tablespoon flour
- 1 bunch fresh coriander
- ½ bunch fresh parsley
- 4 whole jalapenos
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 cup of walnuts
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ½ cup of water
- 1 tsp dried coriander
- 1 tsp Khmeli Suneli spice (Georgian Spice - substitute with equal parts tumeric, ground coriander and blue fenugreek)
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees
- Prepare the Ajika Sauce
- Add coriander, parsley, jalapenos, garlic, walnuts, spices, olive oil and 1 tbs of vinegar to a food processor and blend until everything forms a paste. Set aside.
- Lightly flour the ribs on both sides.
- Heat oil in a large dutch oven on the stove top, and brown ribs (1-2 minutes on each side).
- Remove ribs from pan
- After allowing pan to cool slightly, add vinegar, water, and approximately 1/3 of the ajika mixture. Mix together.
- Place ribs back in dutch oven, so they are partially submerged in the liquid mixture.
- Spread 1/3 of the ajika mixture over the top of the ribs
- Cover pan, and place in the oven at 275 degrees.
- After 1 hour, turn ribs and return to oven.
- Continue cooking until rib meat has pulled back from the bone and is tender.
- Remove ribs from pan, allow to rest for 10 minutes, and then serve, with additional ajika on the side.
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