THE BITE: Since they opened nearly two and a half years ago, I’ve become a regular customer at Apani, the Georgian bakery at 1520 Sheepshead Bay Road. But I almost exclusively grab-and-go, snagging one of the smaller khachapuri options – cheese and bacon, anybody? – before hopping on the train. That kind of habit means missing out on the khinkali, the Georgian dumpling that has intrigued and eluded me all this time.
No longer. I finally put in the kind of planning that allows one to have 15 minutes to stand around checking Facebook while the cook prepares this dough-wrapped meat pillow for one’s enjoyment.
Apani’s menu describes the khinkali as “juicy meat-stuffed dumplings” at $1 a piece. A little inquiry reveals the ground meat mixture is 75 percent beef, 25 percent pork, blended up with onions, green herbs and various seasonings. They’re available frozen or cooked, but cooked requires the aforementioned waiting around, and Apani has no seating to enjoy them right out of the boiling water.
When you first see them, they can be easily confused with Chinese soup dumplings, big fat mounds of stuffed dough pinched at the top. And just like those, there’s an eruption of broth as you bite in, so that first chomp requires some suckling so none of it goes to waste.
Loaded with coriander, expect a quick dose of sourness cut short by savory beefiness that carries into the next chomp. The simple dough skin belies the complex flavors within.
Don’t be a noob: the owner said some of our neighbors, likely accustomed to pelmeni, smother their khinkali with sour cream, but true Georgians eat them plain or with freshly ground black pepper.
Another expert tip? Don’t eat the top where the edges of the dough are brought together. Known as the kuchi or kudi, it’s thick and tough. Georgians keep these on their plate, comparing their quantity of kuchi at the meal’s end.
I don’t listen to my own advice, and I ate them. Afterall, gentlemen don’t keep score, and tough or tender, I never met a kuchi I didn’t like.
Georgian Cuisine Apani, 1520 Sheepshead Bay Road (between East 15th Street and East 16th Street), (347) 462-4733.
The Bite is Sheepshead Bites’ weekly column where we explore the foodstuffs of Sheepshead Bay. Each week we check out a different offering from one of the many restaurants, delis, food carts, bakeries, butchers, fish mongers, or grocers in our neighborhood. If it’s edible, we’ll take a bite.