Underrated and unappreciated are how Sara Shah & Yamini Walia describe Greek cuisine. A few weeks ago, we told you why you should visit Greece and this week, we’re paying tribute to the country’s delicious cuisine
Who doesn’t love Japanese sushi and Italian pizza? But, how often do you hear someone rave about Greek tzatziki or souvlaki? Unfortunately, we’re sure it’s not very often. Even though Greek cuisine has a variety of scrumptious delicacies on offer, it’s not really popular. We’re giving you a few insights into the cuisine and telling you everything you need to know about popular Greek dishes. We also explain its history and bring you a classic Greek recipe so that you can whip up an authentic Greek meal at home with ease.
GREEK FOOD AND ITS HISTORY
- A Greek meal has always been considered more of an event than just a simple meal. Friends and family come together to dine and a simple meal can last for hours on end! Bread, wine and olive oil were considered must-have items at the dinner table — the Greeks are believed to have over 50 varieties of bread. Even today, the Greeks are the biggest consumers of olives and olive oil.
- A staple diet in Greece consists of fresh produce that has been harvested from the country’s rocky terrain. Greece has always enjoyed a mild climate, allowing the people to grow several varieties of fruits and vegetables, depending on the monsoon. The ancient Greeks were farmers by profession and most of them grew their own produce.
- Wine is one of the most popular beverages. The Greeks loved their wine, but often mix it with water. While they preferred goat’s milk, even that was diluted with water. In the past, milk was usually only used to produce cheese.
- In ancient Greece, beef and pork were expensive and so the poor only ate them during religious festivals when the animals were sacrificed. This sacrificial meat was cooked and distributed to the public.
- While there are quite a few meat-based dishes in Greek cuisine, meat wasn’t very popular in ancient Greece. Fish, however, was very common, because Greece is surrounded by the sea.
- The Greeks were big fans of bread, but they didn’t own many vessels. So, it was a convention for food to be served in bread. In fact, bread was also used in place of spoons. The Greeks also used bread pieces as napkins, which were later fed to dogs!
AUTHENTIC GREEK DISHES YOU MUST TRY
While there are a lot of scrumptious Greek dishes that you should definitely try out, here’s a list of our favourite picks
Over the years, this dish has seen several changes and is prepared differently according to different household traditions. However, in its truest form, Moussaka is a lamb and eggplant casserole, layered with a creamy béchamel sauce (a white sauce), spiced meat and aubergines. It is among the most popular Greek dishes and is usually the highlight of every Greek meal.
Our list would be incomplete without the all-time classic, Baklava. A dessert made from phyllo pastry — thin unleavened dough — it is layered with a spicy nut filling and bathed in a sugary sweet syrup. The Greek dessert is a must-try when you visit Greece.
This Greek finger food is made from phyllo pastry, just like Baklava, but is moulded into triangles, and stuffed with a cheese filling. Tiropites are usually deep-fried and often served as a snack or a starter.
The tzatziki dip is made from creamy yogurt, cucumbers and garlic, and is served with either freshly-baked pita bread or as an accompaniment to grilled meats and vegetables. It is most commonly served with souvlaki, a dish of skewered cubes of meat.
The Greeks love their vegetables and the Horta Vrasta is proof of that. Delicious and healthy, this dish is made from boiled leafy greens and is generously drizzled with olive oil and fresh lemon juice.
GREEK RESTAURANTS IN THE CITY
If you can’t go to Greece to enjoy the cuisine, let the cuisine come to you. Here are a few restaurants in Mumbai that offer authentic Greek delicacies
The name gives it away. Located on Carter Road, Greko is a haven for those who love Greek cuisine, offering value-for-money, meaty Greek fast food staples such as Gyros (meat roasted on a spit and commonly served in pita as a roll) and souvlaki. If you’re looking for vegetarian options, try their Vegetable Souvlaki.
Where Ground Floor, Gagangiri Building, Carter Road, Bandra (w)
Meal for two Rs 750
A famous Greek dish, Gyros is also a restaurant in Lokhandwala. It promises to serve textbook Greek fare such as Souvlaki, Gyros, Spanakopita and Moussaka. The Olympic platter, a meaty mixture of a chicken gyro with chicken souvlaki (skewered kebab-like chicken chunks), is a must-try. Moreover, the lovely ambiance will make you feel like you’re in Greece!
Where 11, Apna Ghar, Unit No. 14, Kamdhenu, 1st Cross Lane, Lokhandwala, Andheri (w)
Meal for two Rs 800
Kipos Eatery & Bar
Another popular Greek restaurant in Bandra is Kipos Eatery & Bar. With its whitewashed walls and blue accents, the décor here transports you to the land of the Greeks. You should definitely try their Chicken Gyro, which is a tightly-packed wrap with fresh tzatziki dip, succulent pieces of chicken and the softest pita bread.
Where 5th floor, Crystal Shoppers Paradise, Corner of 33rd and 24th Road, Off Linking Road, Bandra (w)
Meal for two Rs 1,500
Located in Lower Parel, Aqaba is a must-visit for Greek cuisine, if you live in South Mumbai. With white interiors and aqua hues, the restaurant will remind you of Santorini. It’s the perfect place during the rains with its glass windows that are stretched high up to the ceiling and lush green lawns. You should definitely try their version of the Greek soup, Kakavia, which contains succulent pieces of fish and prawn.
Where Club House, Level P5, Peninsula Business Park, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel
Meal for two Rs 1,800
Byblos Kitchen + Bar
Another great place to try Greek cuisine is Byblos Kitchen + Bar, also located at Lower Parel. From patatas bravas to baklava, the place has some authentic Greek dishes on its menu. Apart from Greek cuisine, it also offers different cuisines such as African and Lebanese cuisine.
Where High Street Phoenix, Senapati Bapat Marg, Lower Parel
Meal for two Rs 1,600
Chef Shivraj Shendre of Kipos Eatery & Bar has an interesting recipe that you can make at home if you’re craving for Greek food!
Smoked Prawn Saganaki
Ingredients: 250g fresh prawns (cleaned, deveined with tails left intact), ¼ cup olive oil, 1 red onion (finely diced), 2 cloves of garlic, finely minced, 1 long red chilli (finely chopped), 1 large banana chilli (finely sliced), 2-3 tbsps ouzo, 200g canned tomatoes (or 2 large tomatoes pureed in a blender), ¼ cup flat leaf parsley (freshly chopped), salt and pepper for seasoning, 100g of feta cheese and apple cider wood chips
1. On medium heat, heat olive oil in a large frying pan. Once heated, add onion, garlic and chillies. Allow the mixture to soften and become translucent.
2. Add prawns and sauté gently for a few minutes.
3. Add the ouzo, tomatoes, parsley, salt and pepper and allow the mixture to simmer. Cook for 10 minutes on a medium-low heat.
4. Transfer the prawn saganaki mixture into oven-safe ceramic bowls and crumble the feta on top. Place on a hot grill (broiler) until the feta melts and starts oozing.
5. Plate the prawns and cover with a transparent dome.
6. Lift the dome just a bit, then slip in a small tube to fill the dome with smoke of apple cider wood chips using a smoke gun. Alternatively, you can heat the apple cider wood chips in a shallow bowl, place it in the prawn plate and cover it again with the transparent dome.