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A few Dining Pointers

Travel to Greece Guides > Greek Food and Wine > Sampling The Local Cusine

  Overview

 Related Site Topics

Timing: Greeks do not expect quick service and often frown upon food that is too hot! (Try ordering a coffee and you must stipulate that you want it hot, else you will end up with a frappe!) Waiters will not rush you and will rarely deliver food in the same order as it was placed. Dishes sometimes arrive as and when they are ready - just sit back and relax and you will soon adjust to the Greek way of life! Becoming anxious or stressed in a Taverna is a sure way to ruin your experience which is to be savoured, not rushed!

Corfu Travel Guide with tips and advice for this Greek Island. July newsletter.

What To Eat and Enjoy

Firstly, and maybe surprisingly, fish tends to be expensive. Prices are usually per kilo not per portion. When looking at the menu, do not assume that everything listed will be available! The golden rule - if the price has been removed then it is not on. Most Greek establishments work on a 'seasonal availability' basis, as most produce is local. In some of the more traditional places, it is usual (and fun) to go into the kitchen to be shown what is available; great for those who can never decide from looking at menu. Greek menus by law have to be in Greek and English. Some of the translations may cause you some amusement. As a guide, you will be offered:

 Starters

Taramosalata: A fish roe dip made with garlic, onion, breadcrumbs, olive oil and lemon juice. Homemade versions are light salmon in colour and a delight. If you are offered an artificial bright pink sludge, then it has been bought in; drink up and find somewhere else to eat!

Tzatziki: The famous yoghurt, cucumber and garlic dip. Scooped up with fresh bread, it makes a refreshing snack.

Feta Cheese: many locals enjoy a thick slice of feta with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of paprika.

Dolmades: Vine leaves stuffed with rice or meat - normally served cold. Fresh ones are only available early in the season (May, June) when the vine leaves are fresh.

Tiropitta: Filo pastry pies stuffed with feta cheese - they are a delight. Also look out for Spanakopitta - which are the same but with a little spinach added - one of our favourites in the Agni Travel office!

Saganaki: A hard Greek cheese which is battered and shallow fried. Served with a large chunk of lemon.

Scorthalia: The Greeks love dips and this one is a very garlicky potato based one. Served cold but it is yummy.

Gigantes: Large butter type beans, baked in a thick seasoned tomato, onion and garlic sauce.

Keftethes: Fried meatballs with garlic and herbs.

Loukaniko: Spicy local sausages - usually grilled.
 

 Main Courses

Mousaka: (Notice there is no 'r' in the correct pronunciation and the accent is on the last 'a'.) Layers of fried aubergine and minced meat (usually beef) topped with a creamy béchamel sauce.
Stifado: A meaty red wine stew with baby onions and tomato. The meaty chunks are soft and tender and the baby onions go soft and sweet - to be eaten with lots of bread.
Sofrito: Tender beef steak cooked in a garlic and wine sauce.
Yemista: Stuffed vegetables, usually tomatoes and green peppers. The filling is usually a vegetable and rice mix with a little cheese. Sometimes beef mince is added.
Kelftiko: Lamb slowly baked in the oven until it is so tender it just falls from the bone. Served with Greek roasted potatoes.

 Main Courses - Fish

Prawn Saganaki: a rich creamy dish with king-size prawns, feta, tomato and a little garlic. My favourite.
Astakos: (Lobster) local lobster is very expensive and best eaten lightly grilled with a little butter. Even though the menu says lobster, you will normally be served a 'crayfish' - basically a lobster without claws - just as good though.
Kalamari: Baby squid, usually fried with a dusting of flour, but better grilled. Fresh ones are normally only available when there is no moon - as they are caught with a powerful 'gas lamp'. The light attracts them to the surface. Watching dozens of 'lit-up' fishing boats on a dark summer night, dotted along the coast is quite magical.
Oxtapothi: (Oxto means 8 and Pothi means leg - you already knew that didn't you!) Octopus, is often boiled and served in what the locals call a 'salad'. Actually these are small pieces in olive oil - with no salad in sight! It is though very tasty ( a little bit like chicken). Grilled is also excellent - but often quite expensive as it shrinks to a tiny size when cooked. The octopus is caught using a long pole with a few leaves attached to the end - plus a liberal sprinkling of hooks! The pole is prodded around the rocks to tempt the octopus to grab the leaves - a time consuming task.

Kakavia: Fish soup - often this will include vegetables, bones and heads! But it is always excellent.

Atherina: White bait. Tiny fish that are fried and usually eaten whole.

Marithes
: Sardine sized fish which are fried and yummy. Incidentally, sardines and (many other fish which are also caught at night) are not available when there is a full moon. The reason is that the fish can 'see' the nets and simply avoid them.
 

 

 

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Main Courses - Vegetarian

For those preferring not to eat meat, then you will be pleased to know that you will not miss out. There is a wide range of tasty salads and vegetables available - although some will of course be seasonal. Look out for bean dishes such as fasolakia or gigantes. At Taverna Agni, we often suggest that vegetarians order a selection of starters as their whole meal. This way of eating is actually the 'Greek way'!
Generally in Greece though, but mostly in the mountain villages, the idea of not eating meat is somewhat foreign and you may be encouraged to eat something that has 'just a little bit of meat' in it! Persevere and explain that eating meat is like going against your religion - it will work eventually.

Corfu Travel Guide with tips and advice for this Greek Island. July newsletter.

Try the local Pittas - often filled with feta cheese, spinach or local vegetables.
 

 Salads

Firstly, take note of the following. When you see the word salad in a Greek menu - it does not always mean what it says. For example 'Aubergine salad' is a creamy dip! A 'Russian salad' is potatoe and mayonaise.

Xhoriatiki: A Greek salad Literally translated  means 'village salad' and includes tomatoes, cucumber, onion, lettuce or cabbage, topped with feta cheese, olives and sprinkled with dried herbs. There are many variations though - so expect anything!
Tomato and Cucumber: you get exactly what you would expect - and nothing more!
Chef's salad: Usually similar to a Greek salad but without the cheese and instead topped with ham and garlic mayonnaise.
Horta:
Wild bitter greens. Locals go mad for these. Dandelion looking weeds are carefully collected, cleaned and then boiled. They look similar to spinach when cooked. Served with olive oil and lemon and sometimes new potatoes - well worth a try if you see it on a menu, but needs to be eaten with a meal.
 
 
Corfu Travel Guide with tips and advice for this Greek Island. July newsletter.

Desserts

Tavernas in Greece do not automatically serve desserts or coffee - you normally have to ask. The following is often available, but a small platter of fruit is more usual Greek choice and often more refreshing:

Baclava: (As with Mou-sa-ka, there is no 'r' in the correct pronunciation and the accent is on the last 'a'.) Filo pastry layers with chopped walnuts cinnamon and steeped in honey. Homemade versions are not too sweet and excellent - bought in versions are not!

Kataiifi: Something resembling a 'shredded wheat' stuffed with nuts and honey.

Galactoboureko: Milk custard pie with filo pastry and a little honey.

Chalva: A very traditional sweet from the mainland, made with semolina, olive oil, almonds and a honey.

Greek Yoghurt: thick and creamy and usually served with a little honey or fruits.


 

Corfu Travel Guide with tips and advice for this Greek Island. July newsletter.

Corfu Travel Guide with tips and advice for this Greek Island. July newsletter.

With an abundance of fresh produce available, expect some culinary delights in the local Greek Tavernas.


 


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