Nigvziani badrijani (or badrijani nigvzit) is a very popular Georgian appetizer that consists of fried eggplant rolls filled with a garlicky walnut paste. I have a hard time telling whether my favourite thing is the incredible flavour that the eggplant and walnut combination delivers, or the contrast in texture between the soft flesh of the eggplant and the thick walnut paste inside. Georgian eggplant rolls with walnut paste is a food I always order at Georgian restaurants.
My favourite Georgian appetizer
Visiting Georgian restaurants was something I would often treat myself to when I lived in Poland. Here in Sweden I am not equally lucky from that point of view. My only shot at Georgian cuisine is making my favourite dishes myself. Earlier this year I started making Khachapuri Adjaruli with a sourdough formula. It is definitely my favourite khachapuri type and I’m so pleased that I can recreate it at home. Now the time has come to recreate another favourite: badrijani nigvzit.
Eggplant rolls filled with a walnut paste and decorated with pomegranate seeds. Badrijani nigvzit is actually one of the signature appetizers found in most Georgian restaurants. Could very well sound like a dish straight out of Greece or Italy. All those familiar flavours might have been among the reasons why it was love at first bite for me with this dish. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure to taste these delicious Georgian eggplant rolls with walnut paste, let me introduce them to you.
Nigvziani badrijani ingredients
For a long time I wasn’t able to make my favourite Georgian appetizer at home because I was lacking a key spice that was not so easy for me to find: fenugreek. We’re not adding much, so this could be skipped. Yet, what’s great about this recipe is the harmony of that various flavours that make up this dish, including all the spices. Here’s what I use:
- Fresh mint
- Fresh cilantro
- Coriander seeds
- Ground fenugreek
- Apple cider vinegar
My recipe has been inspired by this one, which also calls for marigold (calendula) and paprika. Other recipes I have browsed even suggest using hotter spices as cayenne or fresh jalapeño. No portion of badrijani nigvzit I have eaten ever struck me as particularly spicy, and the bite was mostly given by the raw garlic. This is why in my recipe I omit any hot spices and just go for the garlic alone for a kick.
How to make Georgian eggplant rolls
Thinly slice the eggplants lengthways, making them 2-3 mm thick. Salting them is not obligatory if the eggplants you usually use are not particularly bitter. However, salting helps draw some of the water that might spray up during frying. To do that, lay the eggplant slices over a kitchen towel and sprinkle table salt on both sides. Let sit until droplets of water will appear on the surface of the slices. Rinse and pat dry. This takes overall an extra half hour which is not budgeted in the total recipe time.
Heat up enough oil to completely cover the whole bottom of a frying pan and when it’s hot add the eggplant slices. Pan fry the eggplants on both sides, turning them a couple of times as they fry. They are done when soft and very easy to pierce through. Place fried eggplants over paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Eggplants absorb a lot of oil so add more oil to the pan in between batches.
To make the walnut paste, add the walnuts to a food processor. Peel and press the garlic. Crush the coriander seeds. Mince the fresh mint and cilantro. Add garlic, coriander, fenugreek, salt and the minced fresh herbs to the walnuts. Start the food processor and after a couple of minutes pour in the water as the blades rotate. This will turn the mixture to a more homogeneous paste. Lastly, pour in the vinegar, incorporate and then stop the machine.
To fill the eggplant slices, I like to just spread some walnut paste on the larger end of the slice, covering about 1/3 of the slice. Then I roll it up. The walnut paste is too thick to spread all over the eggplant slice. Having the filling only in the centre help make tighter rolls, with more of the fleshy eggplant goodness.
Place the Georgian eggplant rolls on a serving plate and decorate with more fresh herbs and pomegranate arils.
Serving and storage tips
The Georgian eggplant rolls are often served with pomegranate arils, but may as well be placed over lettuce and be served with raw onion. Some sort of bread is often served together with the rolls. I had a bit fresh mint and fresh cilantro left after mincing what needs to go into the paste, and decided to serve my eggplant rolls with pomegranate arils and fresh herbs. Not only did they look really pretty, but the extra flavour added by the fresh herbs made the dish even more interesting. The cilantro was a particularly good option, giving that extra citrusy tang.
This is one of those blessed dishes that the longer they sit in your fridge, the better they taste. If you are making them for a dinner with friends, this is the kind of recipe you can confidently make one or two days ahead. Just skip the decoration, and keep the eggplant rolls in an airtight container in the fridge. I layered mine in a lunchbox, separated by sheets of baking paper.
Pomegranate arils keep just fine even after a couple of days, but I would advise to add the decorations just before serving. The rolls can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days without problems. In fact, fridge time will give the flavours a chance to set, making for a better overall flavour. If you make a larger batch, just decorate only those you plan to eat and keep the rest in the fridge for a later moment.
Hey, eggplant lovers!
If eggplants rank high among your favourite vegetables we’re very much alike! Here are a few more eggplant recipes for you to try:
- Eggplant pasta bake – a small batch if you need to serve 1 or 2, easy to double or triple if you need a larger yield. You can never get enough baked pasta casseroles, right?
- Eggplant ricotta dip – a creamy dip made with roasted eggplants, ricotta cheese and a little chili oil. Definitely something to add to your next round of appetizers!
- Grilled eggplant bruschetta – this might be more of a summer option, but you only need a griddle pan to make this starter happen also in the middle of the winter. As long as you can find some eggplants!
Did you ever eat these Georgian eggplant rolls? What is your favourite Georgian dish? Let me know in the comments!
Georgian eggplant rolls (badrijani nigvzit)
- 2 eggplants medium
- 200 ml vegetable oil for frying
- 140 g walnuts
- 60 ml water
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tbsp fresh mint minced
- 1 tbsp fresh cilantro minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp coriander seeds crushed
- 1/4 tsp fenugreek ground
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 pomegranate
- Thinly slice the eggplants lengthways, making them 2-3 mm thick. Salting them is not obligatory if the eggplants you usually use are not particularly bitter (see notes below).
- Heat up enough oil to completely cover the whole bottom of a frying pan. When hot add the eggplant slices. Pan fry the eggplants on both sides, turning them a couple of times as they fry. They are done when soft and very easy to pierce through.
- Place fried eggplants over paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Eggplants absorb a lot of oil so add more oil to the pan in between batches.
- Add the walnuts to a food processor. Peel and press the garlic. Crush the coriander seeds. Mince the fresh mint and cilantro. Add garlic, coriander, fenugreek, salt and the minced fresh herbes to the walnuts.
- Start the food processor and after a couple of minutes pour in the water as the blades are rotating. This will turn the paste more homogeneous. Lastly, pour in the vinegar, let incorporate, then stop the machine.
- Spread some walnut paste on the larger end of an eggplant slice, covering about 1/3 of the slice. Roll up the slice. Repeat on all eggplant slices, or until the paste is finished.
- Place the Georgian eggplant rolls on a serving plate and decorate with more fresh herbs and pomegranate arils.