Chirbuli: Georgian Breakfast of Eggs, Nuts, and Tradition

Published: August 21, 2019

Chirbuli (Georgian: ჩირბული, Russian: Чирбули) is a staple of the Georgian breakfast table, a dish that perfectly encapsulates the local traditions and international influences that have shaped Georgian cuisine. Chirbuli features fried eggs served on top of a rich sauce filled with spices, caramelized vegetables, and walnuts.

Chirbuli is not one of the Georgian dishes whose popularity spread widely throughout the former Soviet Union. As a dish that is best eaten fresh and one that relies on ingredients that were not always easily attainable in more northerly locations (fresh vegetables, walnuts, and many of its signature spices), this is not so surprising. It is, however, well known throughout the Caucasus, the Middle East, and North Africa, where its roots lie. However, this savory breakfast meal is worth a try and will take you on a journey that words would fail to express!

How It Got It’s Name

(Почему они носят такое название?)

Georgia has an incredibly diverse geography and each area of the country is famous for having its own unique meals and specialties. Chirbuli is generally credited in Georgia as having originated from Adjara, a republic located on the western coast known for its port cities. Adjara’s culinary traditions were influenced from contact made with Middle Eastern and North African countries that were in regular contact with Adjara’s traders. The region’s culinary traditions are known for a particularly exotic use of spices and of richer, fattier ingredients than much of the rest of Georgia. This includes added eggs – for example, and perhaps most notably, in khatchapuri po adjarskii.

The word “chirbuli” most likely comes from its inspiration, shakshuka, a word that is used across several countries to describe eggs cooked in sauce. The word “shakshuka” comes from Arabic and means “mixture.” The word has been directly borrowed into many languages, including Hebrew, as a name for the food. In Adjara, however, the word was not directly borrowed, but instead first translated before its adoption – in modern Georgian, the word for “mixed,” for example, is “shereuli.”

Some might also notice the similarity of the dish to the Mexican huevos rancheros – which also, in fact, came from Middle Eastern immigrants who arrived in Mexico in the late 1800s. What sets chirbuli apart, however, and makes it truly unique is not just its name, but the presences of walnuts – which are generally unheard of in shakshuka recipes, but are considered a core part of any chirbuli recipe.

chirbuli recipe history culture origin

When and How to Eat Chirbuli

(Как правильно есть чирбули?)

Chirbuli is most often eaten for breakfast. It is also often eaten straight from the frying pan it is cooked in, with a fork and slices of fresh bread all used as utensils to scoop up the spiced vegetable ragout and poached egg. The bright, runny yolks are the prime targets for bread dipping with the goal being to get as wide variety of the elements of the dish on the bread before it reaches the mouth.

Chirbuli is generally not used for any special occasions. Special occasions are generally celebrated with “supra,” which are festive suppers and which chirbuli, which is almost exclusively a breakfast food, would be excluded from.

How to Prepare Chirbuli

(Как правильно готовить чирбули?)

While most commonly known as an Adjarian dish, chirbuli also exists in different versions in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and Lazeti (which is now part of Turkey). Even within Adjaria, a multitude of recipes can be found utilizing different spices and techniques. As in many dishes, chirbuli exists as a sort of template can be easily customized – so long as core ingredients such as tomato sauce, walnuts, and eggs are present.

The walnuts should be coarsely ground or crushed. The unique texture they give to the meal is important. They are also usually ground or crushed together with any spices or herbs used, allowing these ingredients to release oils and flavors to mix at an early stage.

Chirbuli has been most traditionally cooked by poaching the eggs in salty water and preparing the sauce separately. The eggs are then served covered by the sauce on top. However, it is now more common to place the eggs on top of the sauce and slowly cook them together. The trick is to keep stirring using low heat to keep the eggs whole. Serve hot right from the skillet with crusty bread!

Let’s Cook!

(Давай приготовим!)

See below for a free recipe for chirbuli. See also the free videos online. If you are interested in cooking from Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, and other places in Eurasia, make sure to see our full, free Eurasian Cookbook online! You might also be interested in the following specialized cookbooks we’ve enjoyed:

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Чирбули Chirbuli
Ингредиенты:
  • 2 крупных сочных помидора
  • 2 луковицы
  • 3 яйца
  • 10 грецких орехов
  • 15 г свежей кинзы (кориандра)
  • 15 г укропа
  • 10 г базилика
  • 1/2 ч.л. сухой кинзы (кориандра)
  • 1 зубчик чеснока
  • 1 ч.л. молотого красного перца
  • 1 ч.л. кукурузной муки
  • 70 грамм сливочного масла
  • Соль

 

Приготовление:

1. Нарезать репчатый лук и обжарить на низкой температуре, часто помешивая, в течение 4-5 минут, с добавлением 70 грамм сливочного масла.

2. Во время жарки добавить 1 чайную ложку кукурузной муки, перемешать.

3. Нарезать помидоры и добавить в сковороду с жареным луком.Размешать и продолжать тушить, часто помешивая, на очень слабом огне в течение 4-х минут.

4. Перемолоть орехи. Раздавить чеснок.

5. В сковороду добавить 200 мл воды и довести до кипения. Уменьшить температуру, добавить грецкие орехи и чеснок.

6. Добавить 1/2 чайной ложки сушеного кориандра, 1 чайную ложку красного перца и посолить по вкусу. Тщательно перемешать. Продолжать тушить на медленном огне в течение 2-3 минут.

7. Нарезать свежую зелень кинзы, укропа и базилика. Добавить зелень в сковороду, перемешать и уменьшить огонь.

8. Аккуратно разбить яйца и добавить в чирбули.

9. Продолжать тушить в течение 2-3 минут. Яичные желтки должны быть всмятку, не крутыми! Снять с огня и сразу подавать к столу.

Записка: Подавать чирбули в горячем виде.

Ingredients:
  • 2 large, juicy tomatoes
  • 2 onions
  • 3 eggs
  • 10 walnuts
  • 15g.|1/2oz. fresh cilantro
  • 15g.|1/2oz. dill
  • 10g.|1/3oz. basil
  • ½ tsp. dry cilantro
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 tsp. ground red pepper
  • 1 tsp. corn flour
  • 70g.|2½oz. butter
  • Salt (to taste)

 

Preparation:

1.   Chop the onions, then fry them in a pan of 70 grams / 2.5 ounces of butter at a low temperature, stir frequently.

2.  While frying, add 1 teaspoon of corn flour and mix.

3.  Chop the tomatoes and add them to the pan of fried onions. Stir and continue simmering at very low heat for about 4 minutes, stirring often.

4.  Crush the walnuts and the garlic.

5.  Add 200 milliliters / 6¾ fluid ounces of water to the pan and bring it to a boil. Reduce the temperature and add the walnuts and garlic.

6.  Add ½ teaspoon of dry cilantro, 1 teaspoon of ground red pepper, and salt (to taste). Stir thoroughly. Continue simmering on medium heat for about 2-3 minutes.

7.  Chop the fresh cilantro, dill, and basil. Add them to the pan, then continue stirring and reduce the temperature.

8.  Carefully crack the eggs on top of the чирбули.

9. Continue simmering for about 2-3 minutes. The egg yolks must be soft, not hard! Remove from heat and serve immediately.

Note: Serve the чирбули while it is still hot.

Our Favorite Chirbuli Videos

SENYA MAKES is a Russian Youtuber with a relatively large viewing audience, and this video about chirbuli has nearly 1 million views! In a very stereotypical Russian fashion, Senya braves the cold winter weather outside of a dacha in Kazan to prepare a traditional Georgian recipe for chirbuli. Not only is it somewhat humorous and interesting to watch him cook outside in the snow, he uses traditional ingredients and Georgian-sized portion of butter for the dish and offers good commentary and step-by-step instructions for preparing the dish!

 

For those of us less willing to brave the cold winter to cook over an open fire like Senya above, here is a video cooking chirbuli with a similar recipe. It uses the traditional Georgian ingredients such as walnuts, and gives bit more detail on cooking.

If you feel confident in your own cooking skills and don’t want to watch a long video, try out this video from Georgian Journal! It’s less than a minute long and gives just the basic instructions!

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About the author

Tanya Tanyarattinan

Tanya Tanyarattinan

Tanya Tanyarattinan is a third-year Thai international student at the University of Denver, double majoring in International Studies and Economics with minors in Russian and Japanese. She is currently studying Society, Business, and the Arts in St. Petersburg with SRAS’s Home and Abroad Scholarship. With an interest in pursuing a career in politics, she travels to see how the world works from different perspectives. Her next stop is Berlin where she will complete her study abroad year. In her free time, she likes to play games and try new food.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Tanya Tanyarattinan

Andrey Ridling

Andrey Ridling is an SRAS Home and Abroad Finalist studying at the University of South Carolina.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Andrey Ridling