If you’re taking a trip to Greece, you’ve likely been lured in by the country’s fascinating history, or the idyllic beaches of its islands, especially Mykonos
. But whether you spend your time relaxing by the sea or taking in the incredible ancient monuments, you will also be able to sample some of the most sought-after delicacies in Greece.
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Here are some classic Greek foods that can’t be missed during your time in the country.
1. Greek Yogurt
The popularity of Greek yogurt internationally has boomed in the last five years, mainly thanks to its now well-recognised health benefits. The strained yogurt is not only thicker and creamier than standard yogurt, but it also boasts less sugar, fewer carbohydrates and contains more protein than its ‘regular’ counterpart.
You can peruse the fridge section in any supermarket and find tubs of all sizes, or you can get it served at cafes with fresh fruit and honey, with waffles or with crepes. Even better, many restaurants will offer you a free dessert after your meal, which is often a small bowl of Greek yogurt topped with fruit.
2. Feta Cheese
Let’s face it, if you’re in Greece, you probably couldn’t avoid feta cheese even if you wanted to.
Made exclusively within the country, it’s in the classic and delicious Greek salad, it’s in pastry pies, it’s in burgers – you name it. Its popularity means that it can be the main event of a dish itself. For a starter you can get it topped with olive oil and oregano, grilled with tomatoes, or wrapped in filo pastry and covered in honey and sesame seeds.
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3. Olives and Olive Oil
If you’re spending any time in the Mediterranean, you can’t miss the opportunity to sample some of the local olives and olive oil. Crete is particularly well-known for its fantastic olive oil – the product of a fertile land which has been producing olives for thousands of years.
A staple in many Greek foods, it would be hard to avoid the olive oil, but its quality is such that you may even want to pick up a bottle to take home.
Olive oil is also utilised in beauty products and soaps. Check out any pharmacy and you’ll likely find hair and skin products made with Greek olive oil, or look out for specialist hand-made soap shops.
Perhaps one of the best-known Greek dishes, moussaka is a layered casserole comprising of minced meat and tomato, potato and/or eggplant (aubergine), topped with a creamy béchamel sauce. A great combo of simple but delicious flavours, its popularity means you will find this on most restaurant menus.
If you’ve gone for self-catering accommodation or fancy trying out some new food from your own home, moussaka is a fun one to make yourself. Although a little time-consuming, the end result is worth the effort.
Pastitsio – baked macaroni with minced meat – is another tasty baked dish.
Unless you’ve got the time and money to have sit-down lunches at restaurants each day of your trip, chances are you’ll find yourself looking for a quick meal on the go that doesn’t eat into your day of sightseeing. Gyros may be just the answer you’re looking for.
Tasty, filling and economical (even in Athens you can easily find a takeaway gyros for 2 – 3 euros), this fast food comprises of meat, salad, chips and sauce stuffed into pita. The sauce is often tzatziki, meaning you also get to sample this classic Greek delicacy.
Spinach and cheese pastry pies (spanakopita and tiropita) are also popular and can make an easy and cheap snack.
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Its climate and the richness and diversity of its flora make Greece an ideal place for bees to produce honey. Thyme honey is a particularly prized product made in Greece. Pine, fir and strawberry tree honey are other varieties which can also be found in the country.
You’ll find honey in many cakes and sweets, including the famous treat baklava, which often uses a honey, lemon and cinnamon syrup, and melomakarona, Greek Christmas cookies.
A healthier alternative to sugar, given its antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, various studies also suggest that honey may have cancer-fighting properties. Why not try it with some Greek yogurt for a tasty but surprisingly healthy treat?
Other Local Delicacies
Each of the Greek islands has its own local specialities and dishes.
Aside from its world-class olive oil, Crete is also known for the quality of its tomatoes and oranges. Cretans utilise their olive oil in numerous dishes, including the simple snack dakos; barley rusks doused in olive oil and topped with tomato and feta.
Cheese is important throughout Greece. The Cycladic island of Naxos has over five different local cheeses, which you can often try out by getting a platter as a starter.
Local liquors are also worth sampling, and indeed you may be offered some for free at the end of your meal. These often incorporate local products such as fruit. Chios, for example, is home to chastic trees which produce a rare natural resin that is used in gums, aromas and its own liquor, Mastika.
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What’s your favourite Greek delicacy?