Adjika: A Georgian condiment that brings fire to the table

Sept 11, 2018
  • By Kara Elder
  • The Washington Post
Adjika from Supra. Photo by Jennifer Chase for The Washington Post. Food styling by The Washington Post’s Kara Elder.

Tunisia has its harissa, Louisiana has its Crystal, and Georgia - the country, not the state - has adjika. But to designate this spicy condiment “Georgian” is a disservice to the intensely complex pepper paste and its somewhat complicated ancestry. Unfortunately, unless you travel to Georgia - specifically Abkhazia (itself a subject of dispute) and Samegrelo, in the west - you’ll probably not taste adjika in its truest form. Both regions make claims on the sauce’s invention. (For what it’s worth, the word “adjika,” also rendered “ajika,” comes from the Abkhaz word for salt.) But thanks to the increased popularity of Georgian cuisine in America, you can at least taste a hint of this complexity. At Supra in Washington, chef Malkhaz Maisashvili makes three types of the sauce - green, red, roasted - and serves each with various dishes on the menu. The ever-buzzy Maydan seasons its rib-eye with it. You can even purchase acceptable jars of adjika in nearly any Eastern European market (although purists will tell you otherwise). Adjika is fiery and a tad peculiar, with plenty of garlic and hints of coriander and often unidentifiable spices. No two cooks make adjika the same way, of course, and it ranges from paste to sauce-like in texture. You may even find it in powdered form at spice shops.

1. Garlic

The pungent bulbs are often deployed in Georgian cuisine, and adjika is no exception.

2. Salt

It makes everything better, after all.

3. Blue fenugreek

Called utskho suneli, the spice lends a little bitterness and hard-to-place scent.

4. Oil

A neutral oil such as canola helps the flavors bind together.

5. Peppers

Fresh spicy red peppers, such as Fresno chiles, used at Supra, make an adjika more sauce-like.

6. Coriander

The ground spice adds citrusy notes.