Delicious Greek food
Juicy rolled vine leaves, steaming plates of skewered meats, crispy aubergines, classic salads and some of the freshest fish you’ll find anywhere in the world: it’s no wonder Greek food has such a mouth-watering reputation. If you’re lucky enough to be heading off to Greece or one of its many islands this summer, the cuisine is certain to be one of the main attractions. So what should you try and where should you go to sample the best cooking Greece has to offer?
Eating out in Greece
Traditional restaurants in Greece are usually called one of two things: estiatória or taverna. The former usually offer cooked options such as moussaka and other casserole-style oven dishes. Tavernas are more common, found even in the most rural of spots, and they serve up small platters of snacks or mezédhes that most people are familiar with from Greek cooking.
As with dining in any unfamiliar country, try to take tips from the locals as to where is good to eat and do as the Greeks do: if you spot everyone diving into a backstreet tavern, that’s probably the best place to go!
Wherever you go in Greece, there are certain staple dishes you will start to recognise. Choice appetisers are Kalamáta olives, tzatzíki dip and fried zucchini. Meanwhile, moussaka cooked from scratch in Greece, with its rich, sauce-laden layers of aubergine, mince and cheese, is incomparable to anywhere else and should definitely be on your list. Greek salads are also ubiquitous and, though you may have tried similar dishes elsewhere, nothing beats the ripeness of the tomatoes and the slabs of feta on top, all doused with good quality olive oil.
Meat-wise, souvláki or kebab-style skewers of lamb and pork are popular, as is loukánika, a kind of spicy sausage. The fish in Greece is typically of a high standard, and you can often choose your ‘catch’ from the cooler in the restaurant. Red mullet and sea bass can be more expensive if caught wild, but if you’re travelling in the summer, hake is a more affordable choice, as are prawns. The braver adventurers might want to taste thrápsalo or fried baby squid!
Greek cuisine does of course vary depending on location. Athens is such a cosmopolitan city that its restaurants tend to be a melting pot of cultural cuisine, while the residents of Western Greece tend to favour spicy meats, pies and a dish of fish in tomato sauce called bourtheto.
The Peloponnese is the place to head for fresh lobster and crab, while each of the islands from Crete to Santorini has its own food personality. Visitors to the green island of Corfu will find big variations compared to the mainland: be sure to try dishes like bourou-bourou – a pasta and vegetable soup – and treats like spiced fig cakes, which are native here.
Similarly, Rhodes has some individual specialities of its own; as a Dodecanese island, it tends to incorporate more spicy flavours and some more Middle Eastern produce such as bulga wheat, pilaf and pulses like lentils and chickpeas.
Feeling peckish yet? If the cuisine of Greece sounds too good to miss, check out Falcon’s range of Greek holidays for 2014.
Have you sampled the delights of Greek cooking in its homeland? Can you tell your bourtheto from your bourou-bourou? Let us know your tips in the comments below!