“What do you mean, he don’t eat no meat?!” As you probably know, this is one of the most iconic lines from My Big Fat Greek Wedding, a much beloved film about Greek culture in America. But is what it suggests about Greek gastronomy – namely that eating meat is an absolute must – actually accurate?
Although I (along with most of the world) adore the film’s character of Voula, who is outraged upon meeting a vegetarian, I have to disagree with her assertion that meat is an essential component of Greek gastronomy. In fact, Greece has plenty of delights in store for vegetarians. Let’s take a look at some of the best.
If you haven’t tried Spanikopita, a traditional pie, you’re in for a real treat. The recipe is surprisingly simple: it only consists of olive oil, butter, spinach and feta cheese, which are baked to perfection inside a crispy phyllo pastry. This dish is not only delectable but also incredibly versatile, making for an ideal appetizer, afternoon snack or dinner. Whatever time of day you choose to savour it, though, your taste buds (and stomach) are sure to keep begging for more!
2. Yemista me Ryzi
Let’s talk about one of the easiest and most flavourful delicacies: Yemista me Ryzi, otherwise known as stuffed vegetables. While you may be thinking that most stuffed vegetable recipes have ground beef at their heart, think again: the Greeks often opt for rice instead, which is flavoured with a mixture of herbs. This dish’s combination of spice, rice and fresh and local produce, such as aubergine, tomatoes, potatoes or peppers, is guaranteed to leave you licking your lips.
3. Kolokythakia Tiganita
It doesn’t get simpler – and tastier – than this traditional speciality, which has become famous all over the world. All it takes is a sliced courgette, the wedges of which are immersed in a light and frothy batter and are fried briefly. Add a tomato- or yogurt-based sauce, and ta-da: you’ve got the perfect snack or appetizer for any lunch or dinner. Dip away!
What do you mean, you don’t eat no Baklava?! If you’ve never tried the sticky sensation that has revolutionised the dessert industry, I recommend that you redeem yourself as soon as possible. This mouth-watering confection consists of a phyllo pastry, which is deliciously drenched in sugar, syrup, butter and crunchy nuts. What could be more perfect when you’re looking for a sugar rush?
And there you have it: Greece has not only enchanted the world with its meat-based dishes, but has also transformed vegetarian gastronomy for the better. (Sorry, Voula!)
Although many of these foods have made their way to other countries, it’s always best to savour their flavours in their country of origin. So, for a truly authentic experience, why not opt for a holiday in Greece? Veggie venture, here you come!