While it is true that no Georgian I have met so far has managed to hide the confusion and shock they feel when I say I don’t eat meat OR cheese, there is actually quite a lot of vegan fare available in Tbilisi without any substitutions or changes required.
In fact, a lot of the food available in the supermarket here is so good, its hard to be bothered cooking. Its also very easy to find this food, particularly as my local supermarket labels everything in the deli section in Georgian and English, and I have made myself a handy cheat-sheet for reading the Georgian words for milk, dairy, eggs, advent, lent and fasting (some Georgians give up milk and meat for lent and advent, so there are vego versions of the classics available sometimes).
Here are a few of the delights we’ve been tasting in Georgia so far:
Be aware, there are many kinds of walnut paste dishes. They all taste fabulous, but I don’t recommend the one with the beet leaves – its tastes good, but looks like cat vomit, and feels how I imagine cat vomit would feel, because of the hard, stringy leaves.
Be careful when buying the bean pies – some of them may have an egg wash. This one doesn’t.
Also available at Goodwill (supermarket closest to my place) is pre-made fried potatoes with mushroom, roasted vegetable medley, rice dishes, breads, pastries, dips, salads, red beans, red bean salad, red bean soup, Georgian corn cakes, vegetarian spring rolls-looking things, soy milk, vegan lard, and even vegan (though not fair trade) chocolate.
The far more numerous supermarket chain, Populi, also has bread, frozen vegan khinkali, and a some of the walnut and eggplant dishes, though they don’t have an ingredient list. There are also bakeries selling warm, local bread (vegan!) everywhere, numerous popcorn and doughnut vendors (I’ve been told the doughnuts are ok for fasting, so no animal fat or milk, but they may have egg) and plenty of fruit, veg and all the walnuts you can eat (these guys have a for serious obsession with walnuts).
So, you see its a total walk in the park being vegan in Tbilisi, regardless of the incomprehension of the locals.