Thursday, October 18th 2018

Disappeared lamb shashlyk – Mystery uncovered

Shashlyk is a form of Shish kebab popular throughout the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Pakistan, Iran, Mongolia, and Israel among other places. Shashlyk (meaning skewered meat) was originally made of lamb (in some extent pork or beef).

grilled meat shashlyk georgia 01

Shashlyk was very popular in the Soviet Union and conquered all of its territory coming from the Caucasus. Georgian shaslyk was as famous as the first man in space.

According to strict Caucasian cooking traditions shashlyk is made only from lamb. Nowadays this meal is cooked from lamb, pork, beef, poultry or sturgeon. The only important thing is that the meat should be fresh and not frozen. It is served with fresh tomatoes, grilled vegetables, greens, onion, cheese and dry wine.

grilled meat shashlyk georgia

When I was a kid I spent some time in Abkzhazia which used to be part of Georgia, and the image of lamb shahlyk grew up with me in my head. And with this idea I was going to Georgia expecting to savor delicious shashlyk with good Georgian wine.

But i was quite disappointed….the disappointment was growing with each day. I was asking in different place for lamb shaslyk and the answer was: pork, chicken and sometimes veal. That was definitely not what I expected. Especially after Turkey where it was not a problem at all to find some grilled lamb. Of course, I could go to expensive restaurants and get lamb, but I did not plan to spend a fortune for a dinner.

I kept looking for it but had to eat pork or choose something else. In a small town of Signagi I even tried liver grilled on skewers. This was new to me as I had never tried grilled liver before. It looked like proper shashlyk but was different. well it tasted like liver ;-)

grilled liver shashlyk georgia

Finally in the same small town of Signagi i managed to find a place serving lamb shashlyk. We ordered and…….i was disappointed again. It was hard, chewy, with a lot of fat and bones….

I could not believe that the country which gave the fame of the lamb shashlyk to the former biggest country in the world could disappoint so much. So i gave up but the mystery remained. Nobody could tell me what happened to lamb. Some time by the end of our trip I met a guy from Svaneti explained to me.

The answer was very simple: Arab people pay a lot of money for lamb, so most of the lamb is exported, and tiny part is left for the local consumption.

As simple as that, purely economic reasons. It is way more profitable to sell it abroad and local people can eat pork. Frankly i was amazed how simple economic reason can change ancient traditions and people’s habits.

If you have similar examples from other countries please share with me.

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5 Comments on “Disappeared lamb shashlyk – Mystery uncovered”

  1. as I am told: same reason the beef is so rare, and usually of poor quality served in czech (hence the boiled beef not steacks etc.) = the best beef gets top dollar in germany and austria because it is actually high quality……… sounds possible, but could be an old wives’ tale….

    1. Aha, I have never heard of it. But yes this could be the reason. It is clearly seen in Georgia. Lamb can rarely be found while in the neighboring Turkey you can find it everywhere. Of course, in the latter they don’t eat pork.

  2. Just a couple of days ago have visited that place “Dnistr” where we used to have ukrainian dinners.. tried pork shashlyk.. the quality suprized me – it wasnt georgian version of it.. rather some sort of ukro-czech-soviet style. not sure if it is even possible to find proper lamb shashlyk in prague..

    1. Hahahaha!
      There are some Georgian and Uzbek restaurants in Prague. They might have shahslyk, but I don’t know for sure.

  3. […] We shared a table with a very cheerful German man and two ladies from Latvia. Great to exchange impressions about Georgia drinking good wine and eating shashlyk. […]

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