Georgian Lamb and Rice Soup (Kharcho) Recipe

Kharcho Soup
Kharcho Soup. © Mikeyarmish / Getty Images
  • 2 hrs 20 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 110 mins
  • Yield: 8 servings Kharcho soup

This Lamb and Rice Soup (Kharcho) is of Georgian origin, which is bordered by the Black Sea to the west, Russia to the north, Turkey and Armenia to the south, and Azerbaijan to the southeast.

Georgia has a rich culinary tradition from which Russia has borrowed liberally. There are many variations of kharcho from family to family and region to region.

In "" (Workman Publishing Co. Inc., 1990), author Anya von Bremzen says she prefers to use beef because the flavor is not as strong as lamb. For me, lamb produces a more authentic flavor, so that is how I prepare my kharcho. Some cooks add mint and other herbs like tarragon, but I prefer mine unadulterated.

What is unequivocal is the use of tklapi, a dried sour plum roll (like fruit leather) available at import shops. If you can't find it, modern cooks use tamarind paste (available at Indian grocers) or a lot of lemon juice.

What I find interesting in "Please to the Table" is Bremzen's mention of Communist Russia stolovaya, or workers' cafeterias, where kharcho was as ubiquitous as in the most elegant restaurants. Stolovaya is equivalent to a Polish milk bar or bar mleczny.

What You'll Need

  • 1 1/2 pounds lamb shoulder meat (trimmed of fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 ounces butter
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste (or 8 ounces peeled, seeded and diced tomatoes)
  • 3 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 8 cups water or stock
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces chopped sour plum roll (tklapi) (or 2 teaspoons tamarind paste diluted in 1/4 cup hot stock, or 3 or more tablespoons lemon juice)
  • 1/2 cup rice (washed and drained)
  • 1/4 cup dill (chopped, for garnish)

How to Make It

  1. Dredge the lamb cubes in the flour. In a large saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter and brown the lamb cubes on all sides.
  2. Add the chopped onion, tomato paste and garlic, and sauté 2 minutes, adding more butter, if necessary.
  3. Add the water or stock and 1 teaspoon optional salt. Bring to a boil, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for 1 1/2 hours.
  1. Add plum roll and rinsed and drained rice. Return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan. If soup becomes too thick, add more stock or water.
  2. Serve in heated bowls and garnish with chopped dill, if desired.