As a vegetarian, I was somewhat apprehensive about visiting Greece. I knew that lamb was the most loved food, and that on the islands fish was the standard fare. Plus, I hadn’t eaten feta cheese since a bad experience in the Gaeltacht where I was forced to eat a whole feta pie. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong, as the islands of Santorini and Naxos served me well, and I’ve had some of the best food of my life in the two weeks that I have been here.
You simply cannot visit Greece and it’s beautiful islands without having at least one Greek salad per day. The combination of tomato, cucumber, pepper, onion, feta and some olives (if you’re lucky) is fit for the Greek gods and tourists alike. It’s refreshing, tasty and most importantly, allows for the recommended daily intake of feta cheese.
Up next is glorious tzatziki, a refreshing dip made from greek yoghurt, cucumber and garlic. When asked if you would like bread or pitta, go for the pitta and heap it on liberally. In Greece, a meal without tzatziki is a sky without stars.
Gyros are a common street food that you will find in every eatery in Greece. You will find them stuffed with vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and onion, topped with a few chips, wrapped in a pitta and drizzled with a mystery sauce (probably some variation of tzatziki). They are usually stuffed with chicken or pork, but the Greeks are very accommodating, and if you ask for vegetarian, they will deliver. In addition to being a good option for a lunch on the go, these beauties rarely go over three euro, so you’re safe to eat your heart out whilst sticking to a budget.
There is another super cheap, super quick option for lunch: pies stuffed with cheese, spinach or courgettes. Depending on the type of establishment you purchase them in, they come either as a pastry parcel, or something resembling a frittata. Either way, they are delicious and well worth forking out three or four euro.
Next up is briam, a comforting dish of cooked vegetables such as courgettes, potatoes and a bit of aubergine. It is served warm in a tomato based sauce that you’ll want to mop up with a bit of pita if it’s to hand. If you’re feeling at all homesick, briam would, with a bit of imagination, remind you of an Irish stew.
If something is offered in the form of “balls” in Greece, it’s usually a good option. Large fried balls of shredded courgettes and cheese served with a sauce, and maybe a few green leaves, are a fantastic choice. But beware, there’s a fine line between being full and not being able to move in the 30-degree heat.