Greek food provides a feast for the eye and the senses. Initially characterized by its frugality, Greek cuisine was founded on the Mediterranean triad, where wheat, olive oil, and wine were essentials.
If there is a single diet widely acclaimed for its health benefits, it’s the Mediterranean. Rich in plant oils, fish, nuts, and vegetables, a Mediterranean diet is not only sumptuous and healthy, but also beneficial for the mind and body. There’s no better way to try Mediterranean cuisine than to sample exquisite Greek food from your local community. Below, we provide the ultimate guide to the best Greek street food.
Considered Greece’s answer to fast food, souvlaki is sold in many areas around town in Greece. Souvlaki is grilled pieces of meat served on a skewer; it can be made with chicken, pork, beef, or lamb. Commonly made with chicken, the tastiness of souvlaki lies in its marination. After being marinated, the meat is cooked slowly over charcoal, giving it a tasty edge.
The souvlaki is then placed on wooden skewers and served with warm pita bread with sliced onion, tomatoes, and tzatziki sauce sprinkled with salt and a fresh drizzle of zesty lemon. History has it that the first souvlaki shop opened in Livadeia, a town in central Greece, in 1951. Garnering increasing popularity, today you will find souvlaki in almost every country around the world, eaten as a takeaway or served at restaurants.
Dolmades is a traditional dish of vine leaves wrapped in small rolls and stuffed with rice, minced meat, onions, fresh herbs, and pine nuts. Although the origins of dolmades are from the Turkish word “dolma,” they are one of the most popular foods in the Middle East, with several Middle Eastern countries claiming their origin. Some dolmades recipes are vegetarian and are made with rice only.
Dolmades have existed since the 17th century; considered among the most famous Greek delicacies, they are eaten at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. To prepare dolmades, the vine leaves are first processed in boiling water until they are tender enough to be rolled. They are then stuffed with rice, minced beef (optional), pine nuts, mint, and parsley, and are left to cook. Vegetarian dolmades are served cold or at room temperature with Greek yoghurt and lemon juice.
Moussaka is a traditional Greek dish made with eggplants, ground lamb or beef, and creamy bechamel sauce. Even though it’s time-consuming to make, many takeaway restaurants in Greece serve it. Rich in seasonings like nutmeg, oregano, and paprika, moussaka makes an excellent comfort meal. The minced sauce is composed of pureed tomatoes, onions, and spices. Many tend to confuse moussaka with lasagna; while lasagna is made with layers of pasta, moussaka is made with layers of vegetables.
There are different variations of moussaka, the most popular being eggplant moussaka, some use potatoes or even zucchini squash as well. Because eggplants are a major ingredient in the traditional Greek moussaka, broiling them is a major shortcut for them to cook quickly. The charred bits from the roasted eggplants result in a great flavour. Grab some at the many moussaka yellow street carts next time you are in Greece.
The delicious savoury Greek pie made of crispy layers of phyllo dough and a warm filling of spinach and cheese is considered an all-time favourite in Greece. Greece has many types of pies and pitas that are very similar and have various fillings. Making spanakopita can be tricky because the layers of phyllo need to be very thin. To achieve that, bakers must continuously pull and stretch the dough before it’s ready. Each thin sheet is brushed with olive oil or butter and sprinkled with sesame seeds.
Today, you can find spanakopita in almost every coffee shop, bakery, and restaurant in Greece. Spanakopita is a great side dish for large gatherings, but it can also be served with Greek salad, tzatziki, or roasted garlic hummus. The key filling is feta cheese and spinach, other herbs and aromatics like parsley, onions, garlic, and dry dill can also be added.
The little bite-sized fluffy sweet honey balls are the Greek version of donuts or Timbits. They are usually served after a meal or as a sweet dinner treat. Loukoumades are served in hot honey syrup, sprinkled with cinnamon, and garnished with chopped walnuts or toasted sesame seeds.
Usually fried to a crisp, the ideal Greek loukoumades are crispy and golden on the outside, and fluffy and airy on the inside. To get the perfect texture, deep-fry the loukoumades in hot oil and fry them in batches so that the pan’s surface is comfortably filled; otherwise, they will stick together. In Greece, new variations have been created for those with a sweet tooth; you can choose from a range of toppings, including chocolate Nutella.
Aaron Levinson | Staff Writer