Fast food Greek style

Let me explain myself: every country has its own snack, typically to be eaten while standing, between shifts if you are working, or while waiting for a bus, or doing errands around town. They are typical an urban need, that comes hand in hand, or because of the high speed of life in the big cities, and the big city lifestyle. They are affordable, no cutlery needed, a most of the times, delivered thru a counter and taken to go.

Now, when I say “affordable” I don’t necessarily mean cheap. One of the things that I learnt about fast food in Europe, is that can come with ancient/secret recipes, carefully crafted thru generations in the same location for ages, and became a staple for the neighborhood or city. And not because the portions are affordable, means that the preparation is with cheap ingredients. Many of these places, if not most of them, use premium ingredients. Their success along time and their pride goes in their dishes.


Cooking meats on skewers is a very old tradition in several cultures along the Mediterranean Sea, and with the mixture of cultures along the centuries due to the different migrations and the expansion and retraction of the different empires along history, it is no surprise to find similar dishes in the different countries, with different names and very similar recipes.

Now, that been said, while travelling, be mindful of these details to avoid uncomfortable situations. The expansion and retraction of the different empires, and the different wars along history might have made that neighbors don’t get along very well, or at least do not appreciate being confused one with the other. If you see the big standing skewer with the standing grill in one of these restaurants in Greece, order a gyro or a souvlaki, but don’t ask for doner kebab (which is very similar) because is the Turkish name for the dish. The origin of this Mediterranean dish can be traced to the Ottoman Empire, reason enough for the Greeks not to like the Turkish denomination that much…

Now, going back to the gyros, which is what I’m talking about today, consist on about a meter of thinly sliced meat steaks, seasoned between layers with different spices. Even when the exact recipe is jealously guarded, the most popular are salt, paprika, assorted peppers, dried garlic and oregano, along with cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, anise, allspice, fennel and coriander. In Greece, the meats will be chicken or beef. After putting this nice huge tasty seasoned meat next to the vertical flames, they are cut in from top to bottom, which results in very small strips. Then, meat is put in pita bread with tomatoes, onion, potato chips (French fries) and tzatziki. This is the fast food version, to eat and go on. If you are sitting in a taverna, you can also order just the meat in a plate, that is called kalamaki.


A more simple recipe, a small skewer with small pieces of meat and grilled horizontally, directly over the embers or flames. Sometimes marinated, or at least pained while in the grill requires less preparation. It can also been done with minced meat attached to the skewer. It can be served in pita or straight on a plate, with the traditional sides. Stones to grill souvlaki were found in the volcanic island of Santorini, in several archeological excavations.

Having lunch at O Giorgakis, close to the pier, in the historic port of Piraeus, is always experience. Freshly made food, friendly service, and Greek radio on the speakers.

To all my Greek friends, ekaristo!

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