Greek Food

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(Greek Salad)

You certainly don’t need to be in Greece to enjoy their wonderful cuisine as most big cities in the World have a couple of good Greek restaurants. True, you may not get the specific ones like an estiatorio that serves foods from the oven, a psistaria, a grill house where one could eat roasts, grills and salads and a taverna, a restaurant with a small menu and ideal for long meals and lots of wine. But what you are sure to get are the souvlaki shops, selling mouth-watering kebabs and gyros.

Since it’s a tradition to start a meal with appetizers, soups and salads, a Greek meal normally begins with a mezze, a starter, and the most popular one here is the feta cheese laden Greek salad. Even though it is meant to be a light dish ideal for a hot and sultry Greek summer day, this salad can actually freshen up anyone during any season with its tangy mix of feta cheese, kalamata olives, drizzled olive oil and lemon juice. Diced pieces of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, green and red bell peppers are mixed well with feta, olive oil and other ingredients to present a tasty salad. A word of caution for those who want a taste of Greek salad in North America, United States to be precise. Be prepared to see your ‘Greek’ salad full of chopped romaine and ice lettuce, we have to live with it, that’s how it’s made here. The other salad that is really good to taste is a simple one made by the simplest potato, the patatosalata. There are a few variations in this where some make this with chunks of fried potatoes and garnish it with chopped parsleys and lemon juice, the popular one is of course boiled and roughly mashed potatoes, mixed well with mayo, pepper and parsley. Both taste good and are sources of instant energy, courtesy the potato. For soups, things are a bit dicey if you are looking for vegetarian ones. For e.g. Fakes is a ‘fake’ vegetarian soup just as its name suggests. It is supposed to be a pure lentil soup seasoned with garlic and other herbs but every time I have tasted this, it was served with meat broth. So I gave up the hope of a veg. soup. 

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(Patatosalata)

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(Lentil Soup)

Bengali cuisine has the tradition of ‘beguni’ thinly sliced eggplant, dipped in gram flour batter and deep fried in mustard oil. You might get something similar in Greek food called the kolokithakiya, where the eggplants are replaced by zucchinis. Even though it looks very similar, both cannot be compared as zucchini is quite a bland vegetable. Rather melitzana, a similar fritter made of eggplant has some similarity even though the zing of the mustard oil is missing.

Popular Greek joints mostly serve gyro (yee-row) as well as souvlaki. Both are exotic combinations of meat, rice, salad and pita. When you order a souvlaki you get grilled juicy chunks of meat (chicken, beef or lamb), served with either plain or saffron rice and garnished with vegetable pickle and some salad whereas in a gyro, thin strips of roasted meat scraped from a vertical rotisserie, mixed with salad and garlic sauce are stuffed inside a pita bread or just rolled inside a pita. The results are just mind blowing. 

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(kolokythakiya)

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(Gyro)


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(souvlaki)

A friend had once said that if you can forget the olive oil part, Greek cuisine does have a lot of similarity with Indian food and the desserts Rizogalo and Halvas are a proof of that. Rizogalo is a rice pudding, very similar to our ‘Payesh’ or ‘kheer’ the only difference being, it is served warm with cinnamon powder sprinkled on top. And the other item Halvas is self explanatory as it is the old and faithful ‘semolina’ (suji or rawa halva) fried and cooked with milk and sugar, the only difference here being, you will miss the soul stirring aroma of the desi ghee that we Indians add in it…bliss!

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(Rizogalo)