All of us culinary travellers plan our trips around the world to enjoy memorable food and drink experiences. We enthusiastically take part in food tours, cooking workshops, wine tastings and other “edible” activities to discover a destination’s culture and lifestyle through its food. But, what happens when, in order to experience how it is to #eatlikealocal, you really have to get out of your comfort zone?
We believe this is the true meaning of food travelling; to come with an open mind to new experiences beyond your culture and dietary habits. In our case, we always try to encourage our guests on our food walks to try “extreme” Greek specialties. Most of the times we are right. People that had a previous bad experience with certain foods or they tried something for the first time, in the end they actually liked it and even children felt very proud for their “achievement”.
For curious eaters visiting Greece, we introduce you to ten typical Greek dishes, that might seem “weird”, but for us are perfectly “normal” to serve on our tables.
1. Patsas. A Greek tripe soup made with veal tripe and legs, chopped finely and served with skordostoumpi (vinegar with garlic) and sprinkled with “boukovo” – chilli flakes. Thessaloniki, Greece’s second biggest city, is famed for its many “patsatzidika”, humble eateries that serve tripe soup as a hangover cure for night owls or as breakfast for nearby workers.
2. Kokoretsi. The most delightful Greek Easter dish made with seasoned pieces of lamb or goat offal, wrapped with intestines and skewered on a spit to grill next to the Easter lamb.
3. Mageiritsa. A hearty and tasty Greek soup we eat the night before Easter Sunday. It is made mainly with lamb liver and optionally other animal parts, eg lungs, heart, spleen and intestines. Just before the meat is ready you add plenty of lettuce, dill and finish off with a creamy avgolemono (egg-lemon) sauce.
4. Camel pastourma. Pastourma is an oriental cold cut that could be described as the Greek prosciutto. Arrived in Greece with Armenians and Cappadocians leaving Turkey in 1920s, pastourma is made mainly with veal, but camel is a very special meat used in some cases – we actually include this Greek delicacy in our morning food walk. The meat is cured, flavoured with spices, like fenugreek, and then left to air dry for about a month. For a foodie sensation try “pastourmadopita”, a sublime Greek pie made with thin phyllo dough, pastourma, kaseri cheese and tomato, sometimes served with Greek yoghurt dip.
5. Snails. The Greek escargot or “hohlioi” as called on Crete where it is actually a treat. Cretans love them and make them in millions ways, especially during Lent before Easter when the cut back on meat. The most popular way is “hohlioi boubouristoi”, which is actually snails fried with their shell in plenty of olive oil seasoned with vinegar and rosemary sprigs.
Always served with a cold shot glass of the local grappa or tsikoudia as named on the island.
6. Pigeons. When on Tinos you cannot help but notice the beautiful dovecotes the Cycladic island is known for. Locals used them to shelter doves and pigeons who used as food and fertiliser. Pitsounia, as called in the local dialect, are usually slow cooked as a stew in rich tomato sauce.
7. Spinialo. In Kalymnos you will find one of the most unusual Greek seafood meze. Spinialo used to be the typical food of the island’s sponge divers and seafarers. Made with sea violets preserved for weeks in a bottle filled with seawater and olive oil, and often, sea urchins, scallops and mussels are added to the mix. Full of iodine, spinialo is a taste that slowly grows on you.
8. Achinosalata. Spiky sea urchins may be a painful for swimmers, but their roe is a cherished Greek summer delicacy. Sea urchin salad is found in many seaside fish taverns, dressed with a dash of olive oil and extra drops of lemon. Close your eyes and enjoy the delights of the Aegean sea.
9. Gavros marinatos. Marinated anchovies is Greece’s answer to sushi and ceviche. This tasty, little fish is simply boned, salted and marinated in vinegar. When served it is dressed with sweet tasting olive oil, garlic, parsley, and optionally, chillies for an extra kick. Our national anise-flavoured drink, ouzo, is their best friend on the table.
10. Octopus. For some, eating octopus seems like a strange idea. Not for the Greeks. We praise octopus in every summer holiday, as documented by the sea creatures hanging outside of every fish taverna on the Greek islands. In Kalymnos, they even serve octopus ink sacs, as a local specialty, lightly fried in olive oil.
Picky eater or curious gastronome? Either way, talk to us to create the right Greek food experience for you.