When it comes to cuisine, the Greeks definitely have got it going on!
In the past few years I have been lucky enough to visit the Greek islands of Ios, Naxos and Santorini as well as the metropolitan cities of Athens and Thessaloniki. I took away many things from these trips- great memories with friends, some historical and cultural knowledge and a pretty solid tan. One thing about Greece in general always stand out in my mind, however- it has some of my favorite cuisine in the whole world!
Being able to visit both islands and mainland cities means that I had the chance to try a variety of dishes, which are typically highly influenced by the natural surroundings. Fresh seafood is everywhere on the islands while you can typically find more diversity of choices in the cities. Regardless, it’s all delicious and I’m going to tell you why…
Five reasons I love Greek food:
1. It is SO fresh
If I were to estimate, I’ve eaten about 20-25 meals in Greece. Maybe once or twice was I disappointed in the freshness of ingredients. There’s a reason for this. The basis of many traditional Greek food dishes (such as Greek salad) include fresh ingredients such as fresh fish, vegetables, legumes and cereals. There’s really no way to fake it or substitute with processed ingredients.
2. Full flavor
What I especially enjoy about Greek food is the variety of full flavors in every dish. Many herbs and spices such as dill, garlic, oregano, onion, mint, thyme, basil and parsley are necessary ingredients to most dishes, which give each one a unique, full flavor.
3. Pita, need I say more?
Head into any bakery and you can find a variety of fresh pitas (pies) to choose from. My favorite is the Spanakopita (spinach pie), which is made from filo pastry with spinach and feta filling. This is really similar to the versions found in the Balkans known as Burek, also equally delicious.
4. You can never have enough Feta cheese
Feta may be my favorite type of cheese and the Greeks definitely know how to do it right. Made from sheep’s milk, goat’s milk or a mixture, this crumbly white cheese is the perfect addition to salads, hence the famous Greek Salad, pies and pastries or simply served on its own. Once in Thessaloniki we were served Feta with sesame seeds and honey as an appetizer. Here is a similar recipe for a fried version. It was one of the best things I’ve ever tasted!
5. Gyros are the ultimate fast food
Made from meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie and served in a pita with vegetables and tzatziki sauce, gyros are the perfect fast food treat. They also come vegetarian with a feta or haloumi cheese substitute, so no one has to be left out! Everytime I had gyros in Greece they never felt super heavy like Kebabs here in Germany or typical fast food in the U.S. Plus they are so cheap! I once paid one euro for a breakfast gyro in Santorini (I couldn’t pass up a deal like that, no matter what hour!).
Check out this list from BBC Good Food for must-try Greek dishes!