Greek kitchen

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Fasolada ( bean soup ) is considered the Greek national dish

The entirety of the dishes common in Greece is called Greek cuisine . Due to the geographical location of Greece, it is part of the Mediterranean cuisine , there are also various regional cuisines, in particular the geographical diversity leads to a variety of ingredients and specialties.

Roots and history

Geographical influences

Greek cuisine is shaped by the geographical conditions of Greece and by influences "from outside". As a country rich in islands and thus also coast, fish and seafood play a major role. At the same time, however, Greece is also a very mountainous country with a mountain share of almost 80%. Sheep and goat meat are very important on the Greek menu: Greece has by far the highest per capita consumption of these types of meat in the EU. The mountainous landscape also offers a wealth that the Greeks knew how to exploit early on: numerous wild herbs and wild vegetables grow here, which have been of great importance in Greek cuisine since ancient times.

History and regional influences

Inscription on a vessel: "Rejoice and drink", 550-540 BC. Chr.
Grate of a grill from ancient times. Today in the Museum of the Agora in Athens

Greek cuisine can look back on a long tradition. Even in ancient Greece you can find elements that still characterize Greek cuisine today: lots of vegetables and fish and above all types of preparation in which the basic products are in the foreground and in which particularly opulent preparations or spices are rather frowned upon. Texts by Hesiod or Homer show that olives , wine , pomegranate , figs and quinces already determined the menu more than two thousand years ago. The tradition of mezedes , small, varied dishes that are now a classic accompaniment to ouzo and wine, was also cultivated back then in a slightly modified form.

The further development of Greek cuisine is closely linked to the development of the entire cultural area of ​​the Eastern Mediterranean. In the Middle Ages Greece belonged to the Byzantine Empire , which stretched in varying sizes around the eastern Mediterranean. Due to the geographically favorable location, also as a trading hub, many spices and products from the Balkans, India or the Arab region were taken in and integrated into the kitchen during this phase. These include eggplant , citrus fruits and caviar . Soaking desserts in plenty of sugar syrup (see baklava ) as well as some types of preparation go back to this era. They found expression in the respective regional kitchens and can still be found today in regionally shaped variations. The best-known example is cooking in grape leaves. In Greece, vegetarian filled dolmades , with different fillings, can be found in Turkey , the Balkans and the Arab world.

Even in the centuries after the Byzantine Empire, the development of Greek cuisine was shaped by regional ethnic or political circumstances. On the edge of the West between western (especially the Venetians ) and eastern (especially Ottoman ) rulership influences to which Greece was exposed after the Middle Ages, the respective national kitchens left traces in Greek cuisine, which can be found especially in Greek regional kitchens, for example Cretan cuisine taken from the Arab region cooking with yogurt.

The Ionian Islands are characterized by different cuisines from Western Europe, whose once Italian cuisine was supplemented by British elements (e.g. mustard powder, orange jam and pudding) and by Austrian, due to the trade route from Vienna via Trieste (e.g. the popularity of the strudel), occasionally also French . Italian cuisine has also been adapted: On Corfu , Venice's influence can be seen in the pastitsada , an Italian - but Greek-flavored - pasta dish in terms of preparation. From the Ionian Islands, the pasticcio dish spread throughout Greece. Various types of cheese came to Italy from the islands, for example Kefalotiri and Mizithra , which are now understood there as purely Italian.

When the Ottoman Empire took over Greek territories, many dishes came to the Orient, such as pita and minced meat. The spices cumin and cinnamon , which are popular in Ottoman cuisine , are typical of the cuisine of north-east Greece today.

While some of these influences have remained more regional, there are others that have spread throughout Greece. This includes the method of preparation, which originally came from the Arab region, of layering vegetables with meat and cooking them in the oven, like the eggplant casserole Moussaka .

The Greek also influenced other cuisines as the namesake of numerous herbs and spices, including parsley , basil , thyme , oregano , chamomile , coriander and mint .

Characteristic elements

The Greek meal is not an end in itself, it is rather a pretext and occasion and the initial spark for sociability, and the more successful the occasion, the more successful it is. ( Johannes Gaitanides )

Ingredients and preparation

As one of the Mediterranean cuisines, Greek cuisine is characterized by the consumption of plenty of vegetables, seafood and olives (mostly of the Kalamata variety for consumption, Koroneiki for oil pressing), in addition to the herbs and spices typical of this region such as mainly Rigani, ρίγανη ( oregano ), mint , Thyme , sage , cinnamon and paprika .

Typical Greek cuisine prefers main dishes that are prepared in the oven and either kept warm there or consumed only lukewarm anyway. Bread, mostly Greek white bread , is eaten with all dishes . People generally cook with a lot of olive oil and with the general rise in living standards in the last decades of the 20th century, meat consumption has increased significantly. In addition to sheep and goat meat , a large proportion of pork and beef has been consumed since ancient times , a large part of which is imported. Although the number of sheep and goats kept in Greece is high, sheep meat must e.g. B. imported from New Zealand to meet domestic demand.

In the coastal regions, fish continues to play an important role on the menu, even if the prices for fish have risen sharply due to the overfishing of the Mediterranean.


The nature, distribution and composition of many Greek dishes are only to be understood in connection with the much longer and mostly more strictly observed fasting periods in Orthodox churches . This fact is often overlooked when assessing the health of Greek cuisine. In a total of ten weeks of fasting, most animal foods are completely avoided. The popularity of seafood and squid, but also sweets such as halva , is supported by the fact that these dishes are exempt from the requirement of fasting. During pre-Easter, the longest Lent, a large selection of wild vegetables ( chorta ) and snails as protein-rich foods are available in rural areas . The taramosalata (fish roe paste) also offered in Greek restaurants in Germany is a typical Lent side dish.

Food culture in restaurants

Traditional restaurant in Athens

It is typical of the food in a Greek restaurant that the person who invites to eat orders all the dishes, usually in excess. At the beginning of the sequence of dishes, a number of starter plates are usually served, each of which can put together its own plate as desired. If grilled food is served as a main course, e.g. B. lamb ribs, the waiter puts a plate of meat for everyone in the middle, from which everyone can take. If one of the guests does not like the main course (for example because of the type of meat), a separate, smaller plate will be ordered for him.

Simpler restaurants have a display case with the dishes of the day. The guest either has this presented to him by the waiter or goes to the counter himself after ordering the drinks. Larger restaurants also offer this service in addition to the à la carte menu, as many guests want to convince themselves of the quality of the food.

The custom in Central Europe that everyone orders their own main course with side dishes on their own plate is rather unusual in Greece. As a rule, people tend to eat together at a later hour, especially during summer due to the high temperatures. For the Greek population, socializing while eating is just as important as the food itself.

Typical dishes

Starters ( Orektiká )

Ouzo and grilled octopus for aperitif
Pikilia , small starter platter
Choriatiki ,
farmer's salad
Olives and sheep cheese

The various starters are mostly, but not exclusively, served cold and eaten with or without bread. This includes above all:

Also popular are meze , small appetizers, often for ouzo are served:

Soups ( soupes ) and stews

Patsa's soup

Hot soups are eaten in winter. In summer they tend to serve lukewarm to cold soups.

  • Chortosoupa and Soupa Lachanikon are vegetable soups
  • Trachanas the Greek variant of Tarhana ; the Roman gourmet Marcus Gavius ​​Apicius (* around 25 BC; † before 42) mentions in his 6th cookbook 6.8.13 cooked chicken in milk and tracta, which was taken from the Greek traganos, τραγανός . The origin is uncertain, but known early in ancient Greece.
  • (Tanomenos) Sorvas also called Pontic soup , is a Pontic soup that is cooked with grits or rice , yoghurt and mint
  • Fasolada , the Greek bean soup , which is also known as the Greek national dish .
  • Fakes , mostly a Greek lentil stew
  • Revithosoupa , a soup made from chickpeas
  • Fava soupa , pea soup
  • Psarosoupa . Fish soups in different variations depending on the type of fish. Mostly made with avgolemono. The kakavia is the traditional fisherman's soup
  • Yiouvarlakia with minced beef meatballs and rice
  • Kotosoupa , the Greek variant of chicken soup , with rice , olive oil , onion and avgolemono (lemon juice whipped with egg)
  • Kreatosoupa beef soup with potatoes , carrots and celery
  • Patsas , a tripe soup

Finally, the Magiritsa consumed at Easter should be mentioned here . This soup, soured with lemon, with liver and other sheep's entrails as a filler, is mainly eaten by everyone on Easter vigil and the following day.

Main courses ( Kyria Piata )

French fries, rice or kritharaki (small noodles in rice grain format) are often offered with all main dishes . The vegetable side dish also varies, with green beans , aubergines and okra being common.
A lot of lamb and goat meat is used in Greek cuisine. Fish is one of the most popular main dishes, be it in soups, casseroles or marinated dishes, with larger, noble fish being prepared on the grill. Even chicken ( kotopoulo ) and rabbits ( Kouneli ) in many variations enrich the menu of Greek cuisine.

  • Gyros is a traditional Greek style seasoned, shredded pork from the vertical rotary grill. Gyros is only prepared as a simple quick dish in snacks or smaller grill restaurants ( Greek ψησταριά , psistariá), where it is served with pita . As a rule, restaurants in Greece do not serve gyros.
  • Souvlaki , meat skewers of different sizes, with either lamb or pork, are almost exclusively served in snacks and (excursion) restaurants equipped with a charcoal grill ( sta Karvouna ). The small lamb skewers, on the other hand, have a long tradition in the rural population.

Dessert ( Epidorpio )

Traditionally, seasonal fruit or homemade ice cream is served as dessert after dinner . Sweet desserts were more likely to be served with an afternoon coffee, but have also become common as desserts. These “sweet” desserts can also be found in a similar form in Turkish or Middle Eastern cuisine and are probably of Byzantine origin. They are very sweet and heavy, and often soaked in honey syrup. These include the baklava (μπακλαβάς) Galaktoboureko (γαλακτομπούρεκο, a semolina pudding), Kadaifi (κανταΐφι) Loukoumades (λουκουμάδες, being baked in oil cakes in honey syrup), Moustalevria (μουσταλεβριά, a grape pudding) or various cakes , which varies by region are different. Also of cinnamon , honey and licorice and sesame prepared chalvas (χαλβάς) is one of them.

Yoghurt is also served as a dessert, mixed with honey and walnuts. The cream yogurt known as Greek yogurt is used here.

In summer, instead of desserts, fruits are also served, such as melons, honeydew melons and apples.

Easter and Christmas cookies

Painted Easter eggs

There is a large number of regional baked goods on offer for the ecclesiastical celebration of Easter. Yeast plaits in particular are baked in different sizes at this time. Here, painted eggs are used for decoration, but they are not consumed.

Cookies are baked in the run-up to Christmas, by far the most popular are Melomakarona (cookies soaked in diluted honey) and Kourampiedes (almond cookies in powdered sugar).


Basically, when eating, water is always placed in the carafe or water bottle and water glasses on the table.

Retsina by Kourtakis

There are also typical drinks:

  • Of great importance is the Greek wine , which, if not in the bottle, is ordered in copper or glass jugs as quarters, halves or liters in taverns. Until late in the 20th century, the barrels were in the guest room and the guest chose from numbered barrels. In some regions the retsina , a dry white wine with resin, is consumed. The most popular sparkling wine is the Cair from Rhodes , which is usually used to toast the New Year.
  • Beer is also popular in Greece. Until the 1960s, the market was dominated by the traditional Fix brewery , which has Bavarian roots. Later on, the Amstel , Heineken , Löwenbräu and Henninger brands were also brewed in Greece. There are now also new Greek brands, including Mythos and Alfa. Beer is mostly sold as bottled beer and is a pure seasonal drink. 540 million of the 900 million bottles are consumed from May to September. The name for beer is borrowed from the German and is Birra . The word Zythos , which comes from ancient Greek, never caught on, but can be found in the term Zythopiia (for beer brewery).
  • Of liquor is ouzo popular, a clear liquor with a pronounced anise flavor, often as an aperitif is drunk and taverns with some meze , mostly octopus or shellfish is ordered. The island of Lesbos is known for its ouzo . However, the popularity of the drink is regional, in Crete and northern Greece traditionally other spirits are produced and consumed. Similar to Italian grappa, Ouzo has an intermediate product that results from the distillation process. It is known as Souma and is a distillate with an earthy character that takes getting used to. It is more common in small fishing villages and small bars and restaurants. Souma costs little and is therefore considered to be poor people's liquor.
  • Liqueurs, as well as aperitifs in general, were traditionally produced in Patras, provided that the aperitif wine Mavrodaphne is included, this is the only one on the market (next to the tentoura ). Cut-throat competition, mostly among Italian manufacturers, has been taking place in Greece since the 1930s.
  • In Crete, the role of ouzo as an aperitif is taken over by tsikoudia .
  • Tsipouro is a pomace brandy that can also be enriched with aniseed aroma; it is mainly distilled in Macedonia , Epirus and Thessaly and usually has a slightly higher alcohol content.
  • Metaxa is the most popular Greek brandy and, in addition to the distillate, also contains a number of herbs.
Greek coffee
Handcrafted device from Crete for preparing Greek coffee
  • Coffee is the most popular non-alcoholic drink, far ahead of tea. Like mocha, Greek coffee is boiled with the coffee powder. It can be prepared with or without sugar as desired. When ordering, it is stated whether and how much the coffee should be sweetened: not at all ( sketos ), slightly sugared ( me oligi ) or heavily sugared (βαρύγλυκο varigliko ). Until a few decades ago, coffee was called Tourkikos or Aravikos (after the believed origin of the coffee), but the term Turkish coffee is now a faux pas ; since the Cyprus crisis in 1974 the slogan has been: "We call it Greek". Originally, coffee was prepared using indirect heat and the pot was placed in a container in a bed of hot sand - a gentle method of preparation that is only found in isolated cases today. Coffee roasters are still common, where customer requests regarding the blend are also met.
  • Café frappé is aspecialty derivedfrom instant coffee , which wasinventedin Greece by an employee of the Nestlé company, and is preferred to Greek coffee in the summer months. Even with this cold frothed coffee served with ice cubes, it is specified when ordering how the coffee should be: with or without milk and sugar.
  • Neskafé (Νεσκαφέ) plays the role that filter coffee plays in Germany. (All instant coffee is called Neskafe !)
  • Tea : Tea drinkers in Greece prefer the endemic mountain tea . The diptam dost is still widespread in Crete .
  • Milk : Due to an older law, fresh milk can only be sold for a few days, regardless of how it was treated. As a result, fresh milk is relatively expensive. Long-life milk (named after the French "gala evaporé") as concentrate and sweet milk are popular alternatives, for example for coffee or the preparation of desserts. One of the oldest and most established brands is the Nestle product Gala Vlachas , named after the Vlach people.

Almost as a matter of course, in summer in many restaurants and taverns a bottle of non-carbonated water is delivered to the table, which is much more popular than soda in Greece. Fizzy drink, called soda , is usually ordered for digestion after a meal.

Orange lemonades are called portokalada , a term that was also used for orange juice, although it is now called chimos ("juice"). Therefore, in Greece Fanta has a high proportion of orange juice and is offered with or without carbon dioxide. Lemon soda is called Lemonada and is only served with carbonic acid. Orgeat is traditionally drunk as a sweet non-alcoholic drink, on the islands of Chios and Nisyros it is known under the name Soumada and on Kefalonia as Orzata . The drink has been supplanted by lemonade for decades, but is still available regionally in pastry shops.


  • Alexis Eideneier: This is how Greece cooks. From the Bosporus to Crete / Nouvelle Cuisine Grecque . Ed .: Nelly Weber. Romiosini, Cologne 1989, ISBN 3-923728-41-7 .
  • Reay Tannahill: Food in history . Three rivers press, New York 1988, ISBN 0-517-88404-6 .

Web links

Commons : Greek Cuisine  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. Meat consumption in the EU, LfL ( PDF  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. )@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  2. Greek cuisine and food culture from antiquity to the present day.
  4. .