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Greek cuisine is a Mediterranean cuisine, sharing numerous characteristics with Middle Eastern cuisines of the region. Contemporary Greek cookery makes wide use of olive oil, vegetables and herbs, grains and bread, wine, fish, and various meats, including lamb, poultry, rabbit and pork. Also important are olives, cheese, eggplant, zucchini, and yogurt. Greek desserts are characterized by the dominant use of nuts and honey. Some dishes use filo pastry.

“Mezés” is a collective name for a variety of small dishes, typically served with wines or anise-flavored liqueurs as ouzo or homemade tsipouro. “Orektika” is the formal name for appetizers and is often used as a reference to eating a first course of a cuisine other than Greek cuisine. Dips are served with bread loaf or pita bread. In some regions, dried bread “paximadi” is softened in water.

The most characteristic and ancient element of Greek cuisine is olive oil, which is used in most dishes. It is produced from the olive trees prominent throughout the region, and adds to the distinctive taste of Greek food. The basic grain in Greece is wheat, though barley is also grown. Important vegetables include tomato, eggplant, potato, green beans, okra, green peppers, and onions. Honey in Greece is mainly honey from the nectar of fruit trees and citrus trees: lemon, orange, bitter orange trees, thyme honey, and pine honey. Mastic (aromatic, ivory colored resin) is grown on the Aegean island of Chios.

Greek cuisine uses some flavorings more often than other Mediterranean cuisines do, namely: oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill and bay laurel leaves. Other common herbs and spices include basil, thyme and fennel seed. Many Greek recipes, especially in the northern parts of the country, use “sweet” spices in combination with meat, for example cinnamon and cloves in stews.

The climate and terrain has tended to favour the breeding of goats and sheep over cattle, and thus beef dishes are uncommon. Fish dishes are common in coastal regions and on the islands. A great variety of cheese types are used in Greek cuisine, including Feta, Kasseri, Kefalotyri, Graviera, Anthotyros, Manouri, Metsovone and Mizithra.

Too much refinement is generally considered to be against the hearty spirit of the Greek cuisine, though recent trends among Greek culinary circles tend to favour a somewhat more refined approach.

Dining out is common in Greece, and has been for quite some time. The “Taverna” and “Estiatorio” are widespread, serving traditional Greek home cooking at affordable prices to both locals and tourists. Although fast food is gaining popularity and many major fast-food chains have opened all over Greece, the Greek people still rely primarily on the rich and extensive repertoire of Greek cuisine. In addition, some traditional Greek foods, especially souvlaki, gyros, pita such as tyropita and spanakopita (respectively, cheese and spinach pie) are often served in fast food style.

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