The Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world. It can be found in Greece, Southern Italy, and Spain. Although similar, each country has their own specialties. The diet is based on olive oil, legumes, fruits, and vegetables. Fish, cheese, yogurt, and wine are consumed in moderate quantities, while non-fish meat products are consumed only occasionally.
Here are my favorite foods to try in Greece:
It is the Greek answer to the fast food and very similar to shawarma. Meat (pork, chicken or mutton) is cooked on a vertical rotisserie (referred to as a “spit”) and then sliced. Together with fries, various veggies (tomatoes, cabbage, etc) and tzatziki, it is tossed in a pita bread. It is extremely filling; whenever I would get one for lunch it would keep me full well into the evening!
Souvlaki is often used as a replacement word for gyros, although they are not the same dish. The word “Souvlaki” comes from the Greek word souvla (spit). While the meat for gyros is turned on a vertical spit, the meat for souvlaki is fried on the spit.
The dish dates to the ancient Greece and even today it is served with pita bread on the side. Garnishes such as tzatziki, tomatoes, and onions are also served with it.
The thick yogurt sauce is used to complement various dishes but it is also served as part of mezedes (appetizers). The yogurt is drained overnight. The grated cucumber is also drained. Then they come together with the help of some dill and garlic.
4. Grilled peppers with feta cheese
My Greek friend knowing that I don’t fancy meat dishes, asked me if I wanted to try a cheese platter. Oh, yes! One of the foods served was grilled pepper with feta cheese. It is extremely easy to make and has a huge punch of flavor.
5. Classic Greek salad (horiatiki salata)
No matter where you have it, a classic Greek salad will never taste the same as it does in Greece. Locals swear by it only during summer (when the tomatoes are in season) but I was a tourist and couldn’t refuse it even during the winter; it was amazing. And yes, the feta on top should come as a big piece, sprinkled with oregano. It tastes even better when the tomatoes are in season!
6. Grilled halloumi
Halloumi is Cypriot semi-hard, unripened brined cheese; ideal for grilling and often goes on top of greens. No matter where else I have tried it, it has never tasted the same as in Greece! This is one of the dishes I often make at home during the summer.
7. Classic Spanakopita
This classic casserole features filo dough, feta, and spinach. And once you try it, you will never be able to get enough! Needless to say, this is the only way my husband would touch spinach! Ideal as an on-the-go snack, spanakopita fills you up for quite a long time.
8. Greek bean soup (fassolatha)
This is my go-to-dish during the cold season. Traditionally, the beans are soaked overnight and then boiled for half an hour. The base is made with carrots, onions, celeries, olive oil, bay leaves, and oregano. After the beans are thrown in, a grated tomato goes on top and everything is boiled until done. It is served with feta cheese and bread.
9. Oven roasted potatoes
A side dish which complements any meat main, but goes very well with mutton. Garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, and oregano are sprinkled on the potatoes cut into wedges and then tossed in the oven. They are golden, crispy on the outside, and very yummy. It is another winter dish which can be easily made at home.
Dolmades are not of Greek origin. They come from the Middle East and can be found all over the Balkans. However, each country has its own way of making them. Greeks uses rice, raisins and pine nuts. The mixture is rolled in vine leaves and the dolmades are either served as a separate dish, accompanied with tzatziki, or as a mezedes.
It is the traditional Greek dish, made from layers of minced beef and grilled eggplants topped with béchamel sauce. You can find the dish in almost any taverna.
This dish may seem like an oddity considering that pasta is not exactly a Greek staple! This is a pasta dish with ground beef and is topped with béchamel sauce. Served with a mixed greens salad, it is a dish you can enjoy year round.
The easiest way to describe them is honey puffs. If you are craving something sweet, then this is the food to try. They are addictive but so worth it. The deep fried dough is traditionally soaked in honey. However, you can also find them soaked in chocolate or syrup. Very popular in Greece, they can also be found in Cyprus and the Levant.
Should you visit Greece and want to experience its charming culture and incredible cuisine, try to visit around Easter. This is the time to try tsoureki – the traditional Easter bread-, fakes (lentils) soup, and the famous lamb on the spit. If you visit the islands, don’t forget about the seafood, either. And don’t forget to finish any meal with the Greek coffee!
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This post was written by Cristina, a travel and lifestyle blogger forever in love with the Mediterranean cuisine. She enjoys spending the winters at the seaside, walking on the deserted beach, and discovering new dishes to try. Follow her on her blog LooknWalk Greece, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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