If you take a look at the map of Greece you will see why fish is such an important part of the Greek diet. For such a small country, there are many coasts, which is why they have such a strong maritime history. Eating seafood goes with it. Unfortunately, the once bountiful sea is now barren in some places due to overfishing and the Aegean simply cannot keep up with the demands of a seafood-loving population, whose numbers swell during the tourist season. Fish can be very expensive, although there is cheap fish all year round that is just as tasty as the expensive one.
Let's start at the bottom and work our way up the fish chain. The cheapest fish areSardine(sardines),Gavros(anchovies),Collies(horsetail),Bild(mouth) andhusbands(smell). Also in this cheap category arelula(squid), although the frozen variety usually, if not always, imported from California, China, and other far flung places. When the squid is in season, the menu says it's fresh. When sliced and fried, it is usually frozen, but fresh squid are grilled or fried whole. In thelulaIt's family tooThrapsalwhat looks like squid to you and me and tastes like squid but isn't squid. Well, maybe it's squid, but they call it thrapsala and serve it like fresh squid, grilled or fried whole. are in the same familySoap(squids) which have shorter tentacles and are never fried but cooked in a stew with tomato sauce. Octopus, which is eaten in small amounts asIn the middle(Snack) can be local or come from China or the Atlantic. The squid can be served in a variety of ways, which I'll discuss later. In between there is a range of fish, the price of which depends on the offer and includesxifia(swordfish), some species of Mediterranean tuna and a whole family of bream, trout and even mollusks. Below isLindo(red snapper),sargos(Golden),Lavraki(badejo),Slide(Pandora)ehe calls(Dentex) usually roasted or grilled and sold by the kilo.
Fish is at the top of the food chainAstakos(lobster) which can cost a small fortune and is well known to anyone who has chartered a sailboat around the islands because many captains take their customers to the tavernas serving fresh lobster or the newly discovered lobster.Macaronada Astako(Pasta with lobster). No wonder, as the captains usually get a commission from the restaurants for every business they bring in, and a table full of lobster can cost a few hundred euros or more. But here's a tip. Save your Hummer money to take home. Mediterranean lobsters are overrated, not very tasty, and few chefs have mastered the art of preparing these creatures. They also lack claws, which are the only edible part other than the tail, unless you want to spend the night sucking chunks of meat from the legs and antennae. Yes. Greek lobsters have meat on their antennae. But not enough to justify eating them. In Milos I saw lobster with claws at the famous Roberto's restaurant in Da Peppe. "Where did you find lobster with claws?" I asked him in surprise. "On the plane," he said in his broken English. They came by plane, maybe from Maine, definitely somewhere in the Atlantic.
While you're allowing Greece's lobsters to re-establish themselves and maybe grow a few claws, what can someone who wants to spend big bucks on fish buy that's worth buying. I have a wordBarbounia. Red mullet is the tastiest fish you will ever eat, whether fried or grilled. Is it worth 55 euros a kilo? Luckily you can't eat a pound. A pound is enough for two, and while you'll want more after the last piece of fish, skin or even bone, chances are there are other fish on the table as well. For those who think 55 euros is a little expensive, there iskoutsomoures, the paler cousins of thebarbouni, which some people like better and are cheaper.
Eating out fish is always fun when you're with someone who knows what they're doing. Seafood restaurants are usually located on the seafront promenade outside of Athens. One of my favorite areas isAnavissos, on the way toSounion, a small seaside town famous for its fish taverns. Waiters will line the street and wave you to park your car next to the cafeteria to impress you with their fresh fish, bearing in mind that if the sea is rough there may be no fresh fish for several days. But once you sit down and look at the menu, the procedure is such that your group leader (the guy who knows what he's doing) follows the waiter into the kitchen, where you're shown the fish available. If you are with George, my friend from Fantasy Travel, you will bring my daughter Amarandi and allow her to catch the fish, which she will do. The biggest she sees, usually afagria,sargos, ortsipoura, all in the sea bream family and deliciously grilled and costing more than I would normally spend on multiple dinners.
By the time the big fish is cooking we will have ordered someMezedesto join. is underneathScan lettuce(Picture of fish salad) usually made from carp eggs, but if you're lucky, from kefalo (grey mullet), which was originally made before the number of people eating it exceeded the number of fish laying the eggs. You have to ask if the restaurant makes it or if it comes from a container. Not that it matters. You can season themscanfrom the supermarket so that it tastes really good. A plate of fried gavros (anchovies) is just as important as a plate of fries and they are eaten the same way, with lemon or vinegar squeezed on top. The lemon makes them mushy. Vinegar keeps them crispy. Both taste great. These fish are about the size of your pinky and are cooked almost whole. Their heads are cut off because they give off a bitter taste.husbands(sniffed) are the same size but heads are on the left. you eat everything Don't try to get the bones or you'll be there all night.MineThey are very small sardines, another great appetizer. They are even smallerto returnare to fish what onion rings are to potatoes. Maybe it's a bad analogy. (Or ridiculous.) Let me try to explain. In Kea, in the famousRolandosRestaurant in Hora, he mixesto returnwith flour and onion slices and then fry the whole batter and serve with vinegar and you sort of take it apart and eat it. Like onion rings.
FritoKalamaraki(squid) are also listed inMezedes-Starters on the menu at most restaurants as they try to discourage you from eating a whole meal as it is so cheap. Don't let that stop you. When fresh calamari are available, the menu will let you know. In fact, by law, menus must state whether a fish is fresh or frozen. If there is (kat) in brackets next to the fish you order, it means it is frozen.lulaeThrapsalboth are delicious grilled or fried and can also be stuffed. But for me nothing is like newlulaperfectly fried inParadosiako Cafeneonin Athen.Thalia, the owner-chef of a smallOuzeriein the port ofVourkari, Kea, do these little babiesKalamarakiwho are just amazing.
Sardine(Sardines) are consumed in different ways, either asMezedes(starters) or main courses. Most people like them grilled. Fried is great too. They can also be served roasted in a tomato sauce with lemon and oregano, but that's less common. The smaller the sardines, the better they are. On Lesvos, in July, when the sardines reach a certain size, they are consideredSardine pasta(Photo). The fishermen go out and catch a net full of sardines in one of the two large bays and cover them with salt. Tonight, they're ready to eat, raw like sushi. They go very well with ouzo, in my opinion they are even the best thing to eat with ouzo. You can also find them later in the summer, but as the sardines grow, they need to stay in the salt longer. I made them myself. Eating then requires some technique, but is easy to master. You hold the tail of the sardine with two fingers on one half and two fingers (from the other hand) on the other half. Then you pull gently and the fillet (but tiny) separates from the spine. Then take your fork and run the remaining fillet and tail through the tines (that's a real word; they're the things that make a fork a fork) and separate the other fillet from the backbone. So you eat it or if you don't like it give it to the cats who are watching you with interest. Some restaurants serve simple sardines pastes and others with olive oil, lemon or even vinegar. I like mine with oil and lemon.
OthersIn the middle(appetizer) isLakerda, which is in the tuna family. The fish is cut into steaks about half an inch thick and marinated in lemon and olive oil for a few days before serving. This also goes well with ouzo and is a popular dish on Lesvos, where perhaps the best lakerda can be found in a small hole in the wall of a restaurant in CampoAntissa called Kostas.Gavros Marinados(marinated anchovies) are a less intense, less salty and fresher version of the anchovies you get on pizza, which are usually served with oil and vinegar. This is also commonly served on Lesvos, but can also be found in many ouzeries in Athens and other Greek islands. The best I've ever tasted were probably prepared by Melinda at the captain's table in Molyvos, garnished with olive oil, lemon, garlic and parsley. lately i have seenGavros-Marinatossold in gourmet stores in the US.
The interesting thing about Greek fish is that the cheapest is the best for you. Gavros, Sardeles and Kolios (mackerel) are the richest in omega fatty acids and of the three, Kolios is the tastiest and most filling. It is usually served grilled but can also be fried. The bestThe collisionis made on Lesvos and is calledcarry.The fish is opened and dried in the sun with herbs. Then it's grilled. They won't taste better, especially if you head to the small town of Pirgi Thermi and eat at one of the small fish taverns by the water. I have also seen him in Naossa, Paros and in Skala Eressos, Lesbos.
Garides(prawns) are very common on the island of Lesvos, where they are fried whole and eaten whole, even the heads.Garidessaganakiis a meze of baked cheese, tomato sauce, and shrimp that can be found in almost everyoneOuzerieeMezedopoulionThese are restaurants specializing in ouzo and snacks such as tapas.Karaviedesthey are huge saltwater crabs, very expensive and very unsatisfactory. In Volos there are several dishes with crabs and other shellfish that are eaten like thisMezedes. There's even a crab that's a very close cousin of the California Dungeness crab. On Lesbos there is something calledFarm gardenswhich are a cross between a shrimp and a lobster tail and are fried and eaten whole. My daughter loves these, but some people have complained that they are inedible, a little too chewy to eat whole, and a little too little flesh to be worth peeling.
A very popular dish isPsarosoupa(fish soup) served in many working class taverns as well as in the restaurants on the Plaka of Athens. The most commonly used fish is therofos(Grouper) a huge rock fish that has to be caught individually and usually with difficulty. ArofosIt can be half the size of a man and its meat can also be grilled into steaks, but it is more commonly used inPsarosoupa, along with some of the other stonefish andscorpions(scorpion fish). if you askPsarosoupaThey ask you if you want it with the fish. If you go with the fish, it comes in a bowl with the broth and some potatoes, carrots, onions, and a plate with the fish. It's usually in oneavgolemono(egg-lemon) broth. This is one of the healthiest and tastiest dishes in Greece. The soup at Byzantinoin Plaka is excellent. In some fish restaurants on the island you can order a whole pot by phone the day before or in the morning. We got a pot on thoseAkrotiri Fish Tavernin Agia Focas, near Vatera beach, after the owner found out I was the guy who wrote the review that all the tourists had with them when they found this restaurant far away. It was fantastic.
The octopus is the most misunderstood creature in the sea. The highly intelligent Greeks have struggled to outwit them for centuries, and now the few that remain seem the smartest and most elusive to catch. No problem. There are many in China and chances are the octopus you eat in Greece is not Greek. Still, you must feel a little sorry for slaughtering an animal that has the intelligence of a house cat and none of the bad habits. When I was a happy but unscrupulous fisherman, the octopus was my most coveted prey. But after watching one in its agony after going through the gruesome procedure one must go through to make it edible (shooting in the head, turning the head inside out, then beating to death on a rock) , I said no don't hunt them anymore and instead became their friend and savior, often found them at the bottom of the sea and took them to a safe hiding place from the Greek hunters who shot everything, no matter how small, whatever they could find.
But that doesn't stop me from eating them, and a well-cooked and well-seasoned squid can taste like filet mignon. It is best eaten grilled. Marinated is also good. My final option is with pasta or inStifadowith baby onions in tomato sauce. But you have to know how to cook squid, otherwise it takes you half an hour to eat a bite. It can be very difficult if not done correctly, and part of the procedure involves hitting a rock repeatedly. In some palaces, fishermen say they put them in the washing machine (without soap) until they're soft. One method I've used is in my kitchen art with the bread kneading paddle until you get a white foam, almost like you added detergent. Octopus goes best by the sea with a glass of ouzo or even a bottle.
Media (mussels) have always been eaten in certain areas of Greece but are now almost popular and can be found steamed in many tavernas on Lesvos and other islands as well as in Athens or in Saganaki. There are also other mussels that have been added to the menus, many of them sourced from farms. There are a number of popular fish being farmed now includingPestrofo(freshwater trout), salmon, eel and carp. There is talk of growing turbot, bluefin tuna, yellowtail and also squid. The most popular farmed fish areTsipoura(golden) andLawraki(Mediterranean sea bass) but I saw tilapia being sold at the central market in Athens. If you drive along the coast you will see some of these fish farms even near Sounion near Athens.
Bachelor degree(Cod) is probably the most consumed fish, especially in winter. If you go to the central market in Athens or to any supermarket on the island, you will see salted dried cod. This can be served in oneplates, which is a type of baked fish with vegetables in a tomato sauce and is usually prepared with fresh cod when available. But the most popular way to eat cod is in Plaka's underground taverns, which are only open in winter and specialize in itbakaliaro me skordalia(fried cod breaded with garlic sauce). As unhealthy as it may be, for me it's the only way to eat cod. The salted cod needs to be soaked for a few days, changing the water from time to time. A dish is called similarin the galleon, which is actually a small shark, as we call a dogfish, and not "snapper", which is how many restaurants translate it, to discourage tourists from thinking that there might be sharks in the happy seas of Greece.in the galleonit is also fried and servedSkordalia. If you don't like bones, then these two dishes are for you.
Anyone who has ever eaten in a sushi restaurant has already encountered the delicacy called Uni, which means sea urchin. In my opinion it's the worst tasting sushi dish you can find, especially when compared to fresh sea urchin. There is only one way to eat fresh sea urchins, called sea urchinsArchinos, and that's diving in and picking one up, opening it up, and eating it right there. You can find it in some fish taverns, particularly on the island of Aegina, but no matter how fresh it claims to be, there's nothing quite like eating it straight from the sea. Females are easy to spot by covering themselves in bits of seaweed, paper, or whatever else they find nearby. You have to carefully pick them up and bring them to the surface, take your knife and cut them and eat the orange colored eggs. You won't believe how cute they are. Don't overeat.
You can find them in the central market of Athens and in smaller markets on the islandsrega, (smoked herring), which is served with olive oil and is considered a winter dish because it is too salty. You can find all kinds of canned sardines, some in oil that you can open and eat, and some cured with salt, which requires some work to make them edible. You can also find it canned or packaged in plastic containers.Collies(horsetail),Gavros(anchovies),Lakerda(tuna) and even marinated octopus.Schumbriwhich comes from the mackerel family is sold whole and canned and if you're a fanatic of canned fish you'll love it, but if not then you can leave it at that. This makes your hotel room smell bad and can even alert airport dogs to smuggling.
Also in the “Probably not a good meal idea” category are the kefalo (grey mullets) who live in ports and eat the bread that tourists throw at them. These fish tend to like polluted water, although that doesn't mean the water is polluted just because you see them in the ocean because they are everywhere. They are sold in some restaurants and in the central market. When fresh and clean, their gills are exposed and bright red as shown. Another interesting fish that you can find is thelubricate(Moray Eels) which are widespread in the Greek Sea, although you will probably only see them if you dive after sunset. They're big and evil-looking, with the sharpest little teeth you'll ever see. They're quite edible, delicious deep fried, but so difficult to clean that few cooks mess with them. You don't have to be afraid of them unless you dive and decide to provoke them by sticking your hand in their hole.
One of my favorite fish that is also unusual is thatscarves,described by the ancient Greeks as a parrot fish grilled whole, guts and all. In fact, there is a little song that fishermen sing about itscarves:
The Rofos eat the head
For a real treat, head to the fish section of the Athens Central Market any weekday or Saturday morning. You will see almost all fish from Greece and many from outside Greece and even outside the Mediterranean Sea. Make sure you don't wear flip flops or open-toed sandals as the floor can be wet and uncomfortable.
Also keep in mind that if you go to a seafood restaurant, some of the fish is soldin the city Hall(serving) and some per kilo. Before ordering, check the price per kilo so that you are not surprised when you receive the bill. The waiter always recommends the most expensive fish. what are my favorite fish In this order they are: friedBearnies,Sardine pasta, grilledThe collision, grilled, fried octopusGavros, grilled sardines ubacaliaro me skordalia. The best fishing spots? Practically everywhere on the island of Lesvos. In Athens, it is worth visiting the fish taverns in Anavissos, especially if you plan to visit Sounion. If you are in the small townParadosiako CafeneonVoulis Street has great fried and grilled fish, usually of the cheap variety.ViolettaIn Foikinos Negri there is also a small fish tavern. On the road to Kessariani there are several fish tavernas in Anagenisios Square. When you come to Kea,Rolando, in Hora is considered the master of fried fish.
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