Greece is a land of beauty, culture, and an amazing culinary tradition that has been around for centuries. From its regional dishes to its traditional delicacies and street food, there’s something for everyone in Greece’s rich food culture. Whether you’re a fan of seafood, a lover of Greek salads, or just curious about what makes Greek cuisine so special, this article will help you explore the best foods to try in Greece.
Introduction to Greek Cuisine
If you’ve ever visited Greece or watched a movie set in the country, you already know that the food is one of the highlights. Greek cuisine has a long and storied history that dates back thousands of years, and its influence can still be seen in many Mediterranean countries.
The essence of Greek cuisine lies in its simplicity and use of seasonal, local ingredients. The traditional diet is based on fresh vegetables, bread, grains, olives, olive oil, seafood, and small amounts of meat. Herbs, such as oregano, thyme, and mint, are commonly used for flavor, along with garlic, onion, and a variety of cheeses.
Though the ingredients may be simple, the recipes are anything but. Greek cuisine is all about taking the time to appreciate the flavors of the ingredients and the cooking processes that go into making them. From slow-cooked stews to grilled seafood, the end result is always a delicious and satisfying meal.
Regional Dishes of Greece
No matter where you go in Greece, you’ll find dishes that are specific to that region. In the north, for example, you’ll find hearty dishes like pastitsio, a baked pasta dish made with layers of macaroni and béchamel sauce. In the Peloponnese region, you can try moussaka, a dish made with layers of eggplant, potatoes, and ground meat. And in the islands, you’ll find seafood dishes like saganaki, a fried cheese dish, and fava, a split-pea puree.
You can also explore the unique flavors of each Greek region through its wines. The most common varieties are retsina, a dry, white wine with a hint of pine resin, and assyrtiko, a dry, white wine made from the assyrtiko grape. If you’re looking for something sweeter, try moschofilero, a light-bodied, sweet white wine. Red wines are also popular in Greece, with varieties like agiorgitiko and xinomavro offering up a range of fruity, spicy, and earthy flavors.
Traditional Greek Dishes
When it comes to traditional Greek dishes, the possibilities are endless. There are several dishes that are considered national staples, such as dolmades, stuffed grape leaves, and souvlaki, grilled meat skewers. For a truly unique experience, try spanakopita, a savory pie made with spinach, feta cheese, and phyllo dough.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try kokoretsi, a dish made with roasted offal and spices, or kokkinisto, a spicy beef stew. For a lighter meal, there’s fasolada, a white bean soup, and tzatziki, a yogurt-based dip made with cucumber, garlic, and herbs.
Greek Street Food
When it comes to Greek street food, there are plenty of delicious options to choose from. Gyros, a pita sandwich filled with thinly sliced meat, is one of the most popular street foods in Greece. Other popular items include loukoumades, deep-fried dough balls topped with honey and nuts, and bougatsa, a custard-filled pastry.
For dessert, you can try fresh-squeezed orange juice, or loukoumades, deep-fried dough balls topped with honey and nuts. Falafel and koulouri, a type of sesame-topped bread, are also popular street food items.
Greek Coffee and Drinks
Greek coffee and drinks are an integral part of the Greek culture. Greek coffee, or “Ellinikos Kafes,” is made with finely ground coffee beans and served in small cups. The coffee is usually served sweet, with a dash of cinnamon or other spices.
If you’re looking for something stronger, you can try ouzo, a popular anise-flavored liqueur, or tsipouro, a type of brandy made from grapes. Beer is also popular in Greece, with brands like Mythos, Fix, and Alpha being some of the most popular.
Greek Desserts and Sweets
Greek desserts and sweets are some of the most beloved items on the Greek menu. Baklava, a pastry made with layers of phyllo dough and nuts, is a favorite among locals and tourists alike. Other popular sweets include kataifi, a shredded-wheat pastry, and galaktoboureko, a custard-filled pastry.
If you’re looking for something lighter, try a spoon sweet, a type of jam made with fresh fruits and sugar. Yogurt is also popular in Greece, and you can find it in many forms, such as yogurt with honey or yogurt with fresh fruit.
Greek Meze and Appetizers
Meze, or appetizers, are an important part of the Greek culinary tradition. Some popular meze dishes include dolmades, stuffed grape leaves; taramosalata, a dip made with fish roe and olive oil; and tzatziki, a yogurt-based dip made with cucumber, garlic, and herbs.
Other popular meze dishes include tirokafteri, a spicy feta cheese dip; melitzanosalata, a roasted eggplant dip; and skordalia, a garlic-potato dip. For a truly unique experience, try saganaki, fried cheese served with a lemon wedge.
Greek Salads and Soups
The salads and soups of Greece are as varied as they are delicious. Greek salad, a classic dish made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and olives, is one of the most popular dishes in the country. Other popular salads include horiatiki, a tomato and cucumber salad, and maroulosalata, a shredded lettuce and herb salad.
When it comes to soups, the possibilities are endless. You can try avgolemono, a chicken and lemon soup, or fasolada, a white bean soup. For something heartier, you can try kotosoupa, a chicken and vegetable stew, or youvarlakia, meatball soup.
Greek Seafood Dishes
When in Greece, you can’t miss out on the amazing seafood dishes. The most popular seafood dishes include grilled octopus, fried calamari, and grilled sardines. For a truly unique experience, try gavros, small anchovies marinated in vinegar and garlic, or kolokithokeftedes, zucchini and feta cheese fritters.
If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try garides saganaki, a dish of shrimp in a tomato sauce, or barbouni, a dish of whole red mullet. For something heartier, you can try psarosoupa, a fish and vegetable stew, or bourtheto, a stew made with squid and potatoes.
Restaurants and Markets to Visit in Greece
When it comes to dining in Greece, there are plenty of restaurants and markets to explore. In Athens, some of the most popular restaurants are Varoulko, a seafood restaurant, and Spondi, a Michelin-starred restaurant. In the islands, you can find restaurants serving up fresh seafood dishes, as well as traditional Greek dishes.
Markets are also a great way to experience the local culture and cuisine. The central market in Athens is a great place to find fresh produce, as well as local delicacies like feta cheese and olives. The farmers’ markets in the islands are also a great place to find local produce, as well as handmade items like jewelry and pottery.
Greece is a country filled with vibrant flavors, unique dishes, and a rich culinary tradition. From regional dishes to traditional delicacies and street food, there’s something for everyone in Greece’s amazing food culture. Whether you’re a fan of seafood, a lover of Greek salads, or just curious about what makes Greek cuisine so special, this article has hopefully helped you explore the best foods to try in Greece. So next time you’re in Greece, make sure to take the time to taste the magic of Greek cuisine.