Greece is renowned for its delicious and varied cuisine, which combines unique Mediterranean flavours with a rich culinary tradition. Greek specialities are appreciated the world over for their simplicity, freshness and use of quality ingredients. Whether you like meat, fish, vegetables or dairy products, Greek cuisine offers a wide range of tasty dishes to suit all palates.

Greek cuisine is based on fresh, natural ingredients such as olive oil, aromatic herbs, vegetables, cereals, cheeses and seafood. Greece’s culinary specialities are a real treat: I can tell you that if you want to go to Thessaloniki, you’ll have to fight your way onto the team! So here’s some information to help you eat your fill during your work placement in Greece, the right way.

Table manners in Greece

In Greece, food and meals are considered moments of conviviality and sharing. Here are a few rules, habits and customs for dining in Greece:

  1. Greeting and thanking each other: Before starting a meal, it is customary to greet everyone at the table with “kalí óreksi” (bon appétit). At the end of the meal, it is polite to thank the host or the person who prepared the meal by saying “efcharistó” (thank you).
  2. Sharing dishes: Meals in Greece are often made up of many shared dishes. It is common for dishes to be placed in the centre of the table and for diners to help themselves from these shared dishes. This practice encourages sharing and interaction between diners.
  3. Don’t refuse food: In Greece, it is considered impolite to refuse food that is offered. If someone offers you food, it’s best to accept it gratefully, even if you don’t want to eat much of it.
  4. Keep your elbows off the table: It is generally considered impolite to put your elbows on the table during a meal. It’s better to keep your hands visible on the table or on your lap.
  5. Don’t leave food on your plate: In Greece, it is often appreciated to finish your plate. Leaving food on your plate can be interpreted as a sign of discontent or disapproval. However, it is also important not to overload yourself and to take reasonable portions to avoid wasting food.
  6. Using cutlery properly: Cutlery such as forks and knives are commonly used at mealtimes. Spoons are mainly used for soup or yoghurt dishes. It’s best to hold the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right, unless you’re only eating with a fork.
  7. Respect local traditions: Some regions of Greece have their own traditions and customs relating to food. For example, in some regions, it is customary to break plates after a meal to express joy and happiness. It is important to respect these traditions and follow local customs when you are invited to a meal. In some regions, empty plates are left at the restaurant and dishes for everyone arrive, so that everyone can help themselves and taste everything.

In general, it is essential to be respectful, polite and open to Greek culinary customs when you are invited to share a meal. Greeks are generally very welcoming and will be delighted to share their culture and cuisine with you.

Aperitifs in Greece: you’ve got to treat yourself!

In Greece, the aperitif is often regarded as a moment of relaxation and conviviality before the meal. Here are a few examples of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks that Greeks enjoy with their aperitifs:

Alcoholic beverages :

  1. Ouzo: Ouzo is an emblematic Greek drink. It is an aniseed-flavoured spirit, generally drunk with water. It has a characteristic flavour and a milky texture when mixed with water. Ouzo is often accompanied by mezedes, small plates of side dishes such as olives, feta cheese or seafood.
  2. Retsina : Retsina is a traditional Greek wine flavoured with pine resin. It has a distinctive flavour and a slight resinous note. Retsina is often served chilled and is the perfect accompaniment to mezedes or seafood.
  3. Tsipouro: Tsipouro is another popular Greek spirit. It is distilled from grape marc and can be drunk neat or mixed with water. It is often served with snacks or dried fruit.

Non-alcoholic drinks :

  1. Frappé: Frappé is a refreshing drink made with instant coffee, water and ice. It is often served in a tall glass with a straw and can be sweetened to taste.
  2. Tzatziki: Although best known as a sauce, Tzatziki is also popular as a non-alcoholic drink. It is made from Greek yoghurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. It is often served chilled and can be enjoyed as a refreshing drink.

Now, let’s talk a little about the history of Ouzo. Ouzo is an aniseed-flavoured alcoholic beverage originating in Greece. Its origins date back to the 19th century, when Greek distillers began producing and marketing the drink. At the time, it was often drunk in cafés and taverns as an aperitif.

Ouzo takes its name from the Turkish word ‘uzoğlu’, meaning ‘intense taste’. Over time, it has become emblematic of Greek culture and tradition, associated with conviviality and moments of relaxation.

Ouzo’s distinctive aroma comes from the star anise and other aromatic herbs used in the distillation process. When mixed with water, it becomes slightly milky and has a distinctive aniseed flavour. Ouzo is more than just a culinary speciality in Greece, it’s an institution on a par with Ricard and Pastis in Marseille!

Culinary specialities in Greece: dishes and desserts!

Greek cuisine is rich in Mediterranean flavours and full of delicious culinary specialities, combining fresh, natural ingredients. Here is a selection of traditional Greek dishes and desserts, as well as the ingredients frequently used:

Traditional Greek dishes :

  1. Moussaka: This iconic dish is made with layers of aubergines, minced lamb or beef, tomatoes, onions and béchamel sauce. It is then baked au gratin in the oven to obtain a creamy, golden texture.
  2. Souvlaki: Souvlaki is a popular dish in Greece, consisting of pieces of meat (usually pork, chicken or lamb) marinated in herbs and spices, then grilled on skewers. It is often accompanied by pita bread, tzatziki, tomatoes and onions.
  3. Dolmadakia: These are vine leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, aromatic herbs such as parsley and mint, onions and lemon juice. Dolmadakia can be served hot or cold, as an aperitif or as a main course.
  4. Spanakopita: This is a spinach and feta cheese pie, wrapped in crispy sheets of filo pastry. The spinach is usually mixed with onions, chives and aromatic herbs.
  5. Tzatziki: This fresh, creamy sauce is made with Greek yoghurt, grated cucumber, garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Tzatziki is often used as an accompaniment to meat dishes, vegetables or as a dip for pita bread.

Traditional Greek desserts :

  1. Baklava: This is a sweet, crispy dessert made with thin layers of filo pastry, chopped nuts (often walnuts or almonds) and sweet syrup made from honey, sugar and lemon juice.
  2. Loukoumades: These are small balls of fried dough, similar to doughnuts, which are then drizzled with honey syrup and sprinkled with cinnamon and crushed walnuts. They are often served hot and are appreciated for their light, fluffy texture.
  3. Galaktoboureko: This is a semolina and custard-based dessert, wrapped in layers of crispy filo pastry and generously drizzled with sweet honey-based syrup.
  4. Sweet Greek yoghurt: Greek yoghurt is a simple but delicious dessert. It is thick, creamy and slightly tart. It is often accompanied by honey, fresh fruit, nuts or fruit syrup to add sweetness and flavour.

Ingredients frequently used in Greek cuisine include olive oil, aromatic herbs such as basil, oregano and thyme, citrus fruits (lemon, orange), fresh vegetables (tomatoes, aubergines, cucumbers), olives, feta cheese, seafood, meats (lamb, pork, chicken), nuts and honey.

Greek cuisine is renowned for its simplicity, authentic flavours and use of fresh, high-quality ingredients. It offers a true taste experience, reflecting the culture and culinary heritage of Greece.

In conclusion, Greek cuisine is a real treat for the taste buds, offering a unique combination of Mediterranean flavours, fresh ingredients and ancient culinary traditions. Greek cuisine is distinguished by its abundant use of olive oil, aromatic herbs, fresh vegetables, seafood, grilled meats and feta cheese.

Simplicity and authenticity are key elements of Greek cuisine. Traditional dishes feature local, seasonal ingredients, bringing out the natural flavours of the food. Fresh herbs, such as oregano and thyme, add distinctive aromas to dishes, while olive oil enhances flavours and provides a rich texture.

Greek cuisine is not limited to savoury dishes, but also offers a variety of delicious desserts such as baklava, loukoumades and galaktoboureko, which combine crispy pasta, nuts, honey and sweet syrups.

In addition to its exceptional flavours, Greek cuisine embodies a healthy Mediterranean lifestyle. It emphasises fresh foods, vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole grains and lean proteins, creating a nutritional balance.

Greek cuisine is also a symbol of conviviality and sharing. Meals are often an opportunity to gather family and friends around large tables filled with dishes to share. The Greeks attach great importance to hospitality and enjoy sharing their cuisine and culture with others.

In short, Greek cuisine is a culinary treasure trove that combines simplicity, freshness, authentic flavours and conviviality. Discovering and tasting Greek specialities is an unforgettable gastronomic experience that transports your taste buds to Greece, and allows you to discover the very essence of its culture and art of living. Ready to try out all the culinary specialities in Greece during your work placement abroad? International Horizons is here to help you find your work placement in Europe. Contact us here!

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