The Best Foods to Try in Greece: Eat Like a Greek Family
Are you planning on traveling to Greece and are wondering what foods you should try? Here are some ideas for children-friendly dishes of high nutritional value!
Greek diet mostly relies on its produce of the country: fresh, seasonal fruits, vegetables, grains, pulses, legumes, goats, sheep, fresh fish, and, of course, the ever present olive oil. Cheeses and yogurts are also fundamental. Eating is focal in Greek culture. It is around the dining table everything is shared. Greek language itself borrows expressions from food. It is in Greece where one becomes the beneficiary of Zeus’s virtue, the lavish and frequent filoxenia (hospitality) and nutrition, diatrofi.
What food is Greece famous for?
Who hasn’t already tried dolmadakia (stuffed grape leaves) and their cousin gemista (stuffed with rice vegetables, such as tomatoes and peppers), spanakopita (spinach pie) or tyropita (cheese pie)?
Who hasn’t heard of tzatziki (a spread based on yogurt and cucumber) or didn’t have a Greek salad (usually consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, olives, feta cheese, and olive-oil with oregano dressing), a gyro sandwich (with seasoned sliced meat) and souvlaki (meat skewer)?
Olive oil is the King
The most characteristic and ancient element of Greek cuisine is olive oil, what Greeks call liquid gold, produced from the olive trees prominent throughout the country.
The basic grain in Greece is wheat, though barley and other seeds are also grown.
Important vegetables include tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, onions, potatoes, beans and okras.
Thyme, flower or pine honey is used in cooking instead of sugar.
Spice it up
Greek food is spiced with oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill, and bay laurel leaves. Other common herbs include parsley, celery, basil, thyme, fennel, cinnamon and cloves.
Meat, Fish, Cheese… so many choices!
In Greece, goats and sheep are preferred over cattle. Rabbits, chicken and pork are also consumed.
Fish dishes are common in coastal regions and on the islands.
A great variety of cheese types are produced, white and yellow, soft and hard, salty and sweet, with feta being the most popular!
Do Greeks dine out?
Dining out is common in Greece as one can attest from the plethora of tavernas and restaurants.
The concept of eating together is widespread. In fact, when around Greece, you will notice that Greeks love their cuisines. Exchanging recipes and discussions evolving around food may last forever, leading to mythical interventions and divine conclusions!
What food should I try while in Greece?
Let’s start with the dips
First, grab some bread, fresh or dried (–the so-called twice-baked paximadi). Then dip it in olive-oil, plain or garnished with herbs, such as oregano and rosemary, or side it with olives. Bread or rusk pairing goes well with any sort of olive pates or spreads, such as the ones which use the following, main ingredients: garlic (skordalia), spicy cheese (tirokafteri), egglplant (melitzanosalata) and raw fish roe (taramosalata).
Time for appetizers
Do you feel full or not yet? Let’s go for some appetizers, what in Greece we call mezedes. Let’s try some grilled octopus, fried calamari, Greek… French fries, courgette- or meat- balls (kolokithokeftedes and keftedakia), or baked lima beans (gigantes).
If a soup person, ask for an egg-lemon soup (avgolemono) with or without meatballs (giouvarlakia), a bean (fasolada) or lentil soup (fakes).
Get ready for the main dish
If the room in your belly is getting less and less, share a main dish! Your kids will love the “fish of the day”, a side of moussaka (–layers of minced beef in tomato sauce, with eggplants, zucchinis and potatoes, and a béchamel topping) or pasticcio (–layers of minced beef in tomato sauce and thick pasta, and a béchamel topping).
If the fish choices are… Greek to you, ask that you walk in the kitchen, see and choose the fish and the cooking style (–grilled, baked, or fried) you prefer.
Oh my… nectar and ambrosia! There are way so many choices when it comes to Greek food!
Hmm… do you have any space for dessert?
Greek yogurt with honey and walnuts, semolina pudding sweetened with syrup (–occasionally with nuts and raisins as well, the so-called halvas) or Greek honey donuts (loukoumades) can deliciously fill those few remaining spots in your stomach and feed your mouth with sweet memories.
P.S. If are an ice-cream… holic, don’t forget to try one made out of fresh cow or goat’s milk!
Are there any specific local specialties that I should try?
Santorini: Have you heard of… volcanoes?
Well, there is an active one on the Greek island of Santorini! Guess what! The velvety golden fava (yellow split pea puree) and the sweet tomatokeftedes (tomato fritters) are amazing on that island because they grow at a unique, volcanic soil!
Learn about all of our Tours in Santorini for Families
Crete: Have you heard of Crete’s labyrinth?
Look for one on a Cretan snail’s shell! Cochlioi (–where the English word cochlea comes from), as they are called in the local dialect, are one of the most favorite delicacies on the island. The locals fry them with flour and rosemary, eat them in tomato sauce with vegetables or cracked-boiled wheat. Have fun… unraveling them!
No wonder why people speak of the Cretan diet! So rich in all sorts of greens which you can try out boiled with just some olive oil and lemon.
Learn about all of our Cooking Classes and Food Tours for Families in Crete
Do you know that Zeus would enjoy a cup of mountain tea, namely dittany (dictamus), and drink only goat’s milk provided to him by his personal goat, Amalthea?
Shoot for goat’s cheese; soft and hard, salty and sweet types of Cretan goat’s and sheep’s milk cheese when on Crete (–look for a farm where you can experience both the milking and the cheese-making process).
Oh! And don’t forget to try out some… “owl” (-dakos, a type of Greek bruschetta), namely Cretan rusk with olive oil, tomato, olives, and soft, salty white cheese.
Northern Greece: How about pies and pastries?
If around northern Greece, Thessaloniki in particular, look for syrup based pastries such as galaktoboureko (semolina custard baked in filo), kataifi (roughly chopped nuts wrapped into crispy kataifi dough) or baklavas (roughly chopped nuts wrapped into filo). They will surely please your sweet tooth!
Today, homegrown, organic goodies can be found anywhere in Greece. Look for them at the local stores. Concepts such as slow food, farm-to-table or farm-to-fork are very… “Greek”!
Did you know that Greeks tend to live longer? It’s the Diet!
What’s more important to bring in from Greece with you is the diet, namely the eating habits of the Greeks. Researchers have found that Greeks tend to live longer and are less likely to be diagnosed with cancer or cardiovascular disease.
Rather than prescribing strict food guidelines, as many traditional “diets” do, the Greek one emphasizes the use of olive oil and healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish, yogurt, and honey, combined with an active lifestyle.
Hey, did you hear that kids? The Greek diet isn’t just about eating, but rather living a healthy life and enjoying time with family and friends! Dear parents, do you frequently eat together as a family? Do you regularly exercise and spend time outdoors, in nature, with family and friends?
– Check out the “Kids Love Greece” online Greek cooking classes
– Book “on-site” Greek cooking classes and food tours on several locations in both mainland and island Greece
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