Greek food you have to try!
Greek cuisine is as varied and delicious as any country you can think of. Every island and every city has its own food culture and the people delight in sharing their food traditions with anyone who can spare the time to try.
Every time a person tells me of their trip to Greece, the memories of what they ate are first on the list of things to divulge. From the freshness of the tomatoes to the delights of undiscovered wines, the list goes on and on. Many are surprised by just how diverse yet traditional the eating experience can be and when you mix this with a welcoming nature then Greece stands out as a culinary delight for any foody or traveller.
Here are some foods you will definitely have heard of and some you may not have but are all a must try:
This may seem like an odd one to start with: shouldn't I go for the big, heavy dishes that we've all tried at our local Greek restaurant..? Well, a Greek meal is not complete without a solid slab of Feta on the side or as part of the dish itself. Made from sheep's milk or a mixture of goat and sheep's cheese then brined, it is a fantastic accompaniment to any Greek Dish. I don't know how it does it but without Feta a Greek dinner just isn't complete.
Walk into any supermarket in Greece and they even have their own section just for Feta cheese where one can spend quite some time finely tuning your Feta knowledge to make sure you have the perfect variant for your meal. But, at any good restaurant or taverna in Greece a simple piece on the side is all you need for a fine dinner.
The name may leave you puzzled as to what it is but it is quite simple really: It is a Spinach and Cheese pastry eaten mainly for breakfast all over Greece. You can buy these little parcels in the bakers and some restaurants offer it as a side dish but this is not very common. So you may have to take a trip to the bakers and practice your pointing skills or ask for it in Greek, both work, but it is definitely worth it as for a breakfast dish it is light but filling and in a way good for you.... It has spinach in it...
These classic vine stuffed vine leaves are a great side dish at any restaurant and can be stuffed with rice or a mince and rice combo that some would argue have a different name. If making wine from the grape plant wasn't enough you can then turn the leaves in to Dolmathes and nothing goes to waste. The key is to eat the fresh ones as many are tinned and although they are not the worst thing in the world, fresh dolmathes is what you want. You can really taste the difference but it depends on the restaurant and if you want to make them yourselves you'll need a lot of patience and anything that you can throw needs to be put out of harms reach.
There are a lot of variations of this dish. The template is to take a vegetable hollow it out and stuff it with something good. The typical vegetables are peppers or tomatoes and the filling can vary but mainly you'll get a rice and mince mixture. A very good alternative for any vegetarians who are finding it difficult to adapt to the Greek love of meat as you can have it with just rice and a nice tomato sauce.
A dish similar to lasagne, but don't go around Greece saying that! Large tubular pasta in layers, sandwiched between mince in a tomato sauce and topped with bechamel it is a hearty meal and one that leaves you feeling full and unable to move. A must try as a main course in any restaurant and a personal favourite of mine.
A mouthful in name and nature this is my favourite desert and you can't leave Greece without trying it. Made with semolina in a filo pastry and served with syrup on top; It may be one you haven't heard of but one to definitely try. If you are lucky it might be free at a taverna if it is their dessert choice of the day and you happen to spend a lot there but if not don't worry tavernas are never that expensive anyway.
Where is any Greek meal without a Greek salad. As a side, as a main it is versatile and refreshing. With only tomatoes, cucumber, onions, feta, oregano and a lot of olive oil it is actually a very simple dish that you can make at home but you have to try it in Greece there is no salad that can compare.
I could go on and on and on and I think in another post I will but this gives you an idea of some of the delights of Greek cuisine where fresh ingredients meet eastern and western spice. A few more quick mentions: tirokafteri (feta dip), Mousaka (pastiticho's aubergine brother), halva (with two options either as a sticky dessert or a block) and fasolada (a white bean soup* with a side of feta).
My advice for when you go to Greece and are sat outside a taverna on a warm summers day is: close your eyes and randomly jab at things on the menu, they will be cheap, delicious and worth it. Also don't forget to mention that the tomatoes in Greece are amazing the next time someone asks you about your holiday to Greece