When you think of Greek food, you may think of the Greek Salad doused in a flavorless oil or the heavy brick of Moussaka served up with indifference at many non-Greek (or wannabe Greek) restaurants around the world. But there is so much more to Greek cuisine, which is amazingly fresh, tasty, and refined. Here are five foods that you should seek out on your next trip to Greece:
Souvlaki Sandwhich: Warm pita bread, filled with grilled meat (I love a lamb-pork combination, but you can also get them with chicken), tomatoes and onions, and sometimes a tangy yogurt and dill sauce called tzatziki. In Athens, you can buy them “to-go” for only two Euros from one of the many souvlaki restaurants just off of Monistiraki square.
My favorite souvlaki spots were Kostas (Plateia Agia Irini 2 – across from the church) and O Thanasis (69 Mitropoleos – off the NE corner of Monastiraki Square). Kostas is a tiny little shop that packs huge flavor into its sandwiches – they add a spicy red tomato sauce instead of sliced tomatoes. O Thanasis has table service and is a great place to sit and people watch. However, if you sit down to order rather than ordering at the take out window, your meal will be much more expensive and, rather than a sandwich, you will be presented with a plate like this:
Shrimp Saganaki – I ordered this dish at several restaurants and it was always good, although La Casa’s version (Matogianni 8), which I ate in Mykonos, was my favorite. It usually consists of 3-5 very large, head-on prawns in a creamy red-sauce with a soft, feta-like cheese.
Stuffed Squash Blossoms: I enjoyed these squash blossoms, which were stuffed with feta cheese, very lightly battered and fried in Syros, at water-front restaurant, Porto (Akti Petrou Ralli 48). The were just a bit crispy on the outside, and warm and cheesy in the middle.
Grilled Octopus: Served up as mezze (a small dish) in many Greek restaurants, grilled octopus may not be for the faint of heart -it has a bit of a chew to it and, unlike the super-processed calamari and octopus often served in the U.S., it still looks like an octopus. But it is very flavorful and smokey. You definitely don’t want to miss it.
Snails: I enjoyed this dish at several different restaurants in Crete. The snails are typically doused in olive oil, sea salt and rosemary. Sometimes the shells will be cracked for you, which helps, but more often than not you will simply be given little plastic toothpicks so that you can pry them out of the shells.
Also try: Greek coffee, fresh Greek olives, roasted lamb.
But you can skip: Raki in Crete (unless you enjoy drinking paint thinner). But good luck, many waiters will not take “no” for an answer when it comes to Raki…
[Note: I was not compensated in any way by any of the restaurants mentioned in this post - I just love finding great food and sharing my discoveries!]
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