The Mediterranean nation’s food is healthy, simple and has several vegetarian option
Fresh, flavourful, cooked in olive, and rich in vegetables, herbs and meats: that’s how Greek food is made. It is a cuisine that Indians love for its simplicity, taste, and health benefits.
“Greek food is part of Mediterranean food and (it) is one of those diets which are anti-inflammatory, high in good fat and antioxidants, fruits and vegetables, olive oil and fish which again is good fat. That whole region has the lowest incidence of heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and other chronic degenerative diseases,” says Ishi Khosla, a clinical nutritionist.
Greece and its four seas make fresh seafood a natural part of the country’s diet. With its Mediterranean climate, the Greek countryside is a fertile ground for a variety of fruits, vegetables and spices.
“Greek food is best enjoyed with family and friends,” says Alexandros Boudouris, deputy chief of mission at the Greek embassy in Delhi.
“Apart from family and friends, Greek food is also paired with wine from the particular region of each recipe-an ancient tradition that has now traveled to many places across Europe. The endless varieties of vegetarian dishes are accompanied by feta cheese and ‘village’ bread (horiatiko) and the many meaty dishes are coupled with Greek salad,” he says.
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Plaka is an interior Greek-themed restaurant—it is coloured blue and white to reflect the nation’s colours–in Gurugram’s Cyberhub business and entertainment centre. “Greek food is liked a lot in India because of its inherent similarities with Indian food. Greek food has a whole lot of vegetarian options in their menu and similar healthy options as Indian food,” says Ajay Chopra, the chef who runs Plaka.
“They (Greeks) grill their food and that is very similar to how we also grill our food. We use a lot of slow cooking methods and so do they.”
Greece’s beaches and mountains are like some Indian regions. “We Indians can relate to such places. Temperature plays an important role in food. We love our yoghurts and you know about the famous Greek yoghurt, which is extra creamy and thicker than dahi,” says Chopra.
Greek cooking balances ancient cuisine with modern techniques, says Rakesh Sethi, corporate executive chef, South Asia, at Radisson Hotel Group. “…fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, and a small amount of cheese and yogurt make up most of the Greek diet. The food is spiced up with a lot of olive oil and herbs as well.”
A number of Greek dishes are plant-based. “It’s incredibly easy to live on a vegetarian diet in Greece,” says Siya Jain, a 32-year-old entrepreneur in Delhi. “Not so much vegan, but for a vegetarian it’s infinitely cheaper than most places in Europe. Fruits, vegetables, and most whole grain stuff are of incredible quality and affordable price.”
If one ingredient could represent all Greek cuisine, it would be olive oil. Its many varieties are used for cooking, baking, or sprinkling over dishes. Olives themselves are a staple on any Greek table, particularly the national favorite, kalamata (olives from a town in the southern Peloponnese). Stuffed with herbs and spices and marinated in vinegar or oil, olives are added to salad dishes or simply placed in a bowl at the dinner table.
Mastiha, a crystallized resin from the pistachio tree that grows on the island of Chios, is another key item in Greek cooking. It has been used for thousands of years, as both a medicinal treatment and to flavor foods, both sweet and savoury.
Feta, the white, crumbly cheese national cheese, is produced in certain regions of the country. It is made from sheep’s milk, or a combination of sheep’s milk and goat’s milk.
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Greek cuisine incorporates dry herbs in many traditional dishes, with thyme, oregano, mint, and savory as some of the most popular. Recipes use native legumes, like fava beans, lentils, chickpeas, and split peas. Oily fish, like sardines and anchovies, are a national staple and octopus is the favorite seafood. One of Greece’s most famous culinary exports, Greek yogurt is known for its sour taste and thick consistency.
“The Mediterranean triad of wheat, olive oil, and wine is a fundamental component of Greek cuisine. Greeks rely on herbs and alliums such as onions, garlic, leeks, and chives rather than spices,” says chef Sethi.
“Apart from dairy products such as yogurts and cheese, as well as components like chickpeas, fruits, vegetables, and seafood have long been staples of Greek cuisine. This is the main factor that makes cuisine flavourful and nutritious. Since most of the components used in Greek cooking are comparable to those used in Indian cookery, their availability is rarely a problem. Other indigenous Mediterranean foods are now widely available in supermarkets and businesses in practically all metro cities,” he says.
Anjana Doshi, an international traveler and investment banker in Mumbai, says: “Greece is the sweet dish stop for Europe. Whether it’s galaktoboureko, baklavas, kantaifi or the more obscure “ravani” and “samali”, they are something completely different than what you have ever tasted in your life.”
|Greek ingredients||Approximate prices (Rs)|
|Del Monte Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Cold Extracted 500ml||490|
|Borges Green Pitted Olives, 450g||210|
|Urban Platter Gum Mastiha 25g||950|
|Almarai Feta Cheese – Full Cream, 400g Carton||690|
|Oleaf Olive Honey – Natural Honey, Organic Honey, and 100% Pure Honey (350 gms jar)||449|
|365 Spicery Greek Seasoning – 500 gm||556|
|Zoh Probiotics Cultures Greek Yogurt Starter Culture||575|