The Mediterranean region of Northern Africa, Europe, and the Middle East is home to some of the most popular cuisines worldwide and includes pasta from Italy, kebabs from Turkey, and of course the highly varied cuisine of Greece. But, what is Greek food? Making use of a wide range of ingredients, namely olive oil, vegetables and herbs, bread, fish, poultry, and cheese, it is easy to comprehend the massive popularity of Greek food around the world.
Perhaps the most important ingredient in traditional Greek dish is olive oil. Indeed, olive oil is used frequently and is usually derived from the many olive trees that populate the region. The distinctive flavours of Greek cuisine owe much to olive oil, but many other ingredients are important in this country’s cuisine. The main grain utilized in Greek cuisine is wheat, and perhaps the most popular bread from Greece is the pita bread. Today, the pita bread has become a mainstay of North American supermarkets as it can be used for everything from traditional Greek kebabs or for dipping with the delicious yoghurt, cucumber, and garlic dip known as tzatziki; but is also a popular option for an updated version of the sandwich.
Some of the most important vegetables include tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, green beans, okra, green peppers and onions. Many typical Greek dishes will offer a combination of these vegetables with a protein. Fish, poultry, rabbit, pork, and beef are all widely Show in Athens used proteins in Greek food. Indeed, one of the most popular dishes in Greek cuisine is souvlaki: skewered, seasoned, and grilled meat (usually chicken, pork, or lamb). Of course, no Greek meal would be complete without the very popular Greek Salad. Greek Salad usually includes largely chopped onions, green peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers finished with delicious Greek olives, a light vinaigrette, and feta cheese.
Many newcomers to Greek cuisine will surely notice the bold flavours. In fact, Greek food often includes distinct flavourings to other Mediterranean dishes. Oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill, and bay leaves along with common herbs and spices such as basil, thyme, and fennel are often noticed in many Greek dishes. Still, the tastes and styles of Greek food will surely vary by region, and you may notice that dishes from northern Greece are flavoured with sweet spices such as cinnamon and cloves.
Without question, Greek food is very diverse. Despite common ingredients, there are a wide range of regional dishes that make Greek food especially difficult to define. Nevertheless, if you are interested in trying Greek food for the first time some perennial favourites are:
- Spanakopita – phyllo pastry stuffed with feta cheese and spinache.
- Dolmadakia – grapevine leaves stuffed with rice, meat, and vegetables.
- Moussaka – an oven-baked Greek casserole composed of layered ground meat, eggplant, and custard.
- Baklava – phyllo pastry layered with nuts and honey.