Greek Cuisine: Coast vs. Mountains

Greek Cuisine: Coast vs. Mountains

Although Greece is known for certain culinary staples like the traditional Greek salad and the use of olive oil, Greek cuisine varies depending on geography. The country’s landscape is mostly made up of mountains and coasts and the conditions of each are reflected in each region’s culinary traditions. 

Let’s take a look at the key characteristics of both coastal and mountainous Greek cuisine:

Greek Cuisine on The Coast

The classic postcard images of Greece are the gorgeous coasts with bright blue waters and whitewashed villages. However, American tourists will find that Greek cuisine on the coast is quite different from any Americanized Greek food they’ve tasted. 

As with most coastal regions, the ocean is a natural source of food. On the shores and any one of the Greek Islands you can find a wide variety of fresh fish. 

Here are some of the most notable seafood you’ll find in Greece:

Kalamari

Kalamari
English Name: Squid

You may have sampled “calamari” in restaurants ranging from Italian bistros to American food chains. However, Greek Kalamari most often comes straight from the coast and not a freezer. They are commonly sliced, batter fried, and served with lemon. They can also be grilled or stuffed with common fillings such as tomato, feta and herbs, and rice and herbs. 

Lavraki

English Name: Sea Bass

Lavraki is a signature main dish at most Greek tavernas. With that being said, it’s not a surprise it’s one of the most extensively farmed fish in Greece. This white fish is traditionally grilled and served whole with lemon, garlic, olive oil, and oregano.

Mydi

Greek Mussels
English Name: Mussels

Saltwater mussels are found naturally in the Mediteranean and Black Seas. Mussel farms in the Greek cities of Kavala and Preveza have increased the supply over the years. Traditionally, Greeks use mussels in the recipe for midopilafo – a risotto. However, it’s also common to find them steamed with garlic at fish restaurants. 

Sardela

Greek Sardines
English Name: Sardines

Although sardela is nicknamed “the poor man’s fish” – due to its affordability – it is still one of the most popular appetizers at Greek tavernas. Frying is one of the most popular methods of preparation. However, they are also commonly grilled or baked in the oven with tomato. Meanwhile, papalina – a local, seasonal sardine known for its superior taste – is often served pasto (raw and cured with salt.) 

Greek Cuisine in the Mountains

80 percent of Greece is mountainous. Across the center of the country is the Pindus Mountain Range, which lies in a northwest-to-southeast direction. As with coastal Greece, the geography of the mountainous mainland naturally creates a specific food culture.

Mountain Livestock

Greek Mountain Livestock

Since the mountainous land is not pasturable, these areas feature ruminant livestock like sheep. The sheep produce meat, cheese, and Greek yogurt. It’s also common to find goats, chickens, and pigs raised for export and local consumption. This abundance of livestock explains the heavy emphasis on meat in central mountain regions like Pieria, Trikala, and Karditsa. The latter is particularly renowned for its cold meats and sausage. 

Wine Country

Greek Vineyards

There are a number of acclaimed high altitude vineyards in Greece. The altitude provides the benefit of cooler temperatures compared to Greece’s arid climate. Additionally, there is water and air to cool the vines and increase the absorption of solar radiation. 

One example of such an area is the village Zitsa in Epirus. Here you will find white and sparkling wines including varieties derived from the white grape Debina.

At Go Greek we place a strong emphasis on cherishing our Greek culture and producing fresh, authentic Greek cuisine. Our recipes were handed down from generation to generation and can now be enjoyed at our restaurant today. Visit us today to get the full Greek experience right in Garden City!