Head off on a holiday to one of our Greek destinations and prepare to savour all the flavours. Traditional Greek food has a reputation for being drizzled in olive oil and manages to mix in a good blend of meat-based dishes and some fab veggie favourites, too.
Greece is known for its vast history and culture and its cuisine is a huge part of that past as well. Whether you travel to the mainland or to one of the idyllic islands, you’ll be able to sample the greatest Greek food wherever you end up.
To help you out, we’ve rounded up the must-eat specialities for when you’re in Greece. Warning: this’ll make you hungry.
- Best of the rest
A slab of hearty moussaka is a staple found on most menus in Greece. This Mediterranean main dish hails from the country, so you’ll be well placed to sample this absolute classic. It’s the Greek version of lasagne, but made with potatoes, lamb and aubergines instead. Although it can be solely crafted with local veg, it does vary from region to region. You’ll most likely come across it filled with a healthy portion of ground meat, but a fresh side salad can cut the richness well.
Lunch or dinner, this is a sure-fire winner. You’ll usually have your pick of chicken, pork or lamb when you opt for souvlaki and the meat is grilled on a skewer. It’s nice and succulent with a crispy, charred taste to its outside. Pair it with a pita bread, roasted potatoes, Greek salads and lashings of tzatziki or tahini, and you’ll be in your element.
Forget the standard kebab – this local spin type of fast food is beyond divine! The original meat used in this Greek go-to was lamb, but you’ll just as easily come across chicken, pork and beef. As for the full package, expect a lush combo of meat, freshly-chopped salad, tomato, onion and tzatziki enveloped in a soft flatbread or pita. Play your cards right and you might even find a few French fries in there for luck!
This well-known sweet pastry is a dazzling dessert that dates all the way back to the Ottoman Empire. Layers of uber-thin filo pastry are filled with chopped nuts, then sweetened and bound together by a gloopy, gluttonous syrup or honey. Whether you’re rounding off a meal or simply sitting down to refuel in a café, a bitter coffee goes down swimmingly with a few bites of baklava.
A bit different to the usual British pie, this humble, flaky pastry is a savoury sensation. Bakeries and restaurants can vary in their recipes, but you’ll tend to find them packed to the rafters with chopped spinach, feta cheese, onions, egg, and a good seasoning of herbs. Leeks or chard can often be swapped out for spinach.
Anyone for a roast? Well, not quite. The locals marinade lamb in bay leaves, garlic, lemon and herbs to create kleftiko. It’s as much an undisputed Greek classic as ancient mythology itself. The sealing of the lamb in greaseproof paper gives it the ideal environment for all the juices to cook nicely. You’ll be in for a flavour sensation once it’s all married with a helping of roast potatoes.
These beauties are otherwise known as stuffed vine leaves. You’ll find they surface among meze platters and always go down a treat. They’re easy to eat and relatively guilt-free, thanks to the stuffing consisting of a mix of rice, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, courgette, and other regional variations. Good news for meat-eaters - you might also be able to find these oil-lathered leaves parcelled up with beef or pork.
This vegetarian starter might not roll off the tongue in its Greek form, but you’ll definitely want to try it! Put simply, kolokithokeftedes are courgette fritters. Often flavoured with dill and garlic, and fried with no expense spared on the oil, these light bites will leave you wanting more (and more). FYI - they’re extra delicious when dipped in tzatziki or with a few cubes of salty feta on the side. Yum.
Got a sweet tooth? You really can’t beat these. This is the Greek answer to a miniature doughnut and they’re a fab palate-cleanser after a medley of traditional Greek food. These dough balls are soaked in honey and often also have a splash or two of lemon juice in the batter. You might even find some places serving them with a warming sprinkling of cinnamon.
10. Best of the rest
And if that wasn’t enough, you won’t struggle to come across fasolatha, a soup made with dry white beans and other veg. It’s a healthy bowl of goodness to get you started. There’s also pastitsio, which is a layered pasta dish comprising silky béchamel sauce and minced meat – closer to lasagne than moussaka.
Don’t miss taramasalata, a smooth meze dish made of cured cod roe (it’s tastier than it sounds), olive oil, lemon juice, and a starchy base like bread or potatoes.
Salivating yet? Wherever you decide to go, you’ll be surrounded by traditional Greek food, morning, noon and night, so it’ll just be a case of picking what you fancy first!
Posted: 1st Mar 2019.