Although I may be half Greek, there are many things that I never knew about Greece until I visited there. I grew up with a constant surrounding of beautiful Greek foods, hand and force fed by yia yia until I could no longer even sit at the table, and even still she kept feeding me - pieces of fresh fruit and perfectly shaped kourabiedes and melomakarona filled with the taste of walnuts and honey with just a hint of orange.
I knew that Greece had fallen into a deep financial catastrophe so I expected that maybe there would be a lack of restaurants open or at least a downgrade in the quality of food - I was so wrong! During our stay in Europe over the summer, the trip to Greece was indeed the most delicious experience had! That’s not to say that the rest of Europe does not have great food, because obviously we know otherwise (check out our top 10 things to eat in Germany post)!
So... although you may have eaten your fair share of spanakopita and gyros, this list will mention some of those most forgotten yet best dishes available, so don’t pass up an opportunity to try them!
Image: For the Love of Feeding
A soup made from dry white beans, tomato, olive oil, and herbs. Don’t underestimate it... not only is it the national food of the Greeks, it’s also really healthy and is served in almost every restaurant. Eat it at someone’s house if you can, but many restaurants can do this soup justice.
Image: Serious Eats
A breakfast street food often eaten by Greeks in the morning. A soft bread ring, much larger than a bagel, topped with sesame seeds. Delicious with a coffee, found in almost every bakery and every street corner. It can be eaten alone, or topped with butter, honey, jam, cheese, or olives and sometimes be found stuffed!
Image: My Greek Dish
Delicious small donuts (like Timbits if your Canadian, but much tastier!) fried and topped with cinnamon or honey and crushed walnuts. If you have a sweet tooth, these will not disappoint!
Often eaten as a snack, starter, or accompaniment, dolmades are grape leaves stuffed with rice, nuts, and herbs and then either boiled or steamed. You can also find them stuffed with meat. Make sure they have a real lemony kick to them or ask for a side of lemon to dress. As you can see, they can also be dressed with a lemon sauce!
Image: Brown Eyed Baker
Long macaroni, beef or lamb, & béchamel…what more could you ask for? A layered pasta dish flavoured with cinnamon, nutmeg, herbs. Baked to perfection!
Image: Brown Eyed Baker
A rich and creamy flaky phyllo pie filled with custard, topped with syrup, and sprinkled with cinnamon. It can be found at many local bakeries, sweeeeeet…tip: eat it while it's warm!
Meatballs served as an accompaniment, main dish, or appetizer. Ok, so you can really eat it at any time is what I’m saying, who wouldn’t!?
Image: A View From Great Island
A healthy chicken-orzo soup thickened with egg. I would highly recommend having this at someone’s house while you are staying in Greece if you can. If not, make sure that when you taste it, it really packs that lemon flavour.
A healthy staple in any Greek household, including mine, my mothers, and my yia yia’s. Stuffed tomatoes and peppers with rice and herbs served with its own juices as a sauce and a side of potatoes. Some do come stuffed with meat, however I always opt for the vegetarian option. The Greeks can really stuff anything while making it look and taste amazing!
Image: Greek City Times
Zucchini flowers stuffed with herbs, cheese, meat, and/or rice, lightly battered and fried or baked for a healthier alternative. Eaten with a side of yogurt or tzatziki.
Image: Mia Kouppa
Another traditional Greek dip, this time made from fish roe. Don’t let this change your mind, it’s not fishy, trust me, you will most likely lick the plate clean.
Image: Serious Eats
Mashed potatoes and garlic dip served with pita bread or vegetables.
Baked giant beans in a tomato dill sauce - a super healthy dish! This is one of the greatest dishes I have ever had and we make an easy version of it at home where it usually makes an appearance once a week on the dinner table.
Another staple on the Greek table. This dish is packed with both nutrients and flavour. Boiled greens (usually dandelion) prepared with lemon, salt, and extra virgin olive oil - my mother and I both grew up eating this and if you can't get any dandelion greens spinach is a fantastic substitute!
Image: The Mediterranean Dish
A very famous dish, moussaka is layered eggplant, potatoes, and beef/lamb (although you can find vegetarian options too) topped with creamy béchamel and mizithra cheese. Baked until crispy and golden brown on top!
Grilled meats/fish often served as an appetizer. Try your best to have this at someone’s house or somewhere you have been recommended to. If you have this dish with very overcooked meat, you will not be happy! Cooked perfectly and you won't regret it.
Grilled chicken, pork, lamb, or beef, on a skewer and served with tzatziki. It can also be found in a sandwich with pita bread. I highly recommend this one (one of Oday's favorites also) and can be found in street stalls and restaurants at any time of day...or night!
Image: Reader's Digest
Spicy Greek sausage with hints of orange. If cooked properly, this dish is super juicy and tender!
A perfect cold and refreshing cappuccino. Visit a local taverna, enjoy it while relaxing on the beach, or after hiking the Samariá Gorge!