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So, our flights have been booked for next Sunday, we're servicing our loyal bikes, the panier bags are coming out of the cupboard and we're checking the tent still has all its poles.

Our plan is 10 days of cycling, through the Pelopponnese and Crete, far from the madding crowds, through mountain meadows and forests full of bee hives, with regular visits to pristine hidden beaches. That's the plan.

Of course, to make our holiday perfect, some feasting would go down well. I had thought that this would be impossible for my boyfriend, given he's vegetarian (no fish either), since I assumed the options will only be grilled meat, grilled fish, or Greek salad. But having had a look at some of these posts, it seems like there are quite a few really delicious (and popular?) dishes that don't involve meat or fish, but do include delicious things like spinach, fava beans, chick peas etc.

So, I'd like to compile a list of Great Greek Dishes that vegetarians can eat, the sort of simple everyday stuff that we might be able to get in a small village taverna. To kick start the list I'm nominating:

Briam - I had this about 10 years ago on the island of Amorgos and it was mindblowingly delicious. Potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes and maybe onions and lots of olive oil? All cooked together extremely slowly. I've tried recreating this but never succeeded. It's something I still have fond memories of!

Any general advice or additions to the list would be most gratefully appreciated!

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This doesn't help much, I know, but I keep remembering the line from My Big Fat Greek Wedding: "What do you mean he don't eat no meat? Oh, that's okay. I make lamb." :raz:

Good luck, and have lots of fun on your trip!

MelissaH

MelissaH

Oswego, NY

Chemist, writer, hired gun

Say this five times fast: "A big blue bucket of blue blueberries."

foodblog1 | kitchen reno | foodblog2

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Does he eat dairy? That would help a lot with getting in some protein, and Greek yogurt is fabulous. Even without dairy, it will usually be possible to have a tasty meal based on small dishes; main dishes don't seem to be vegetarian as much.

I like briam a lot too. Also melitzanosalata, gigantes, dolmades, tsatziki, and just a plate of Greek olives.

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Thank you for the replies! I haven't seen 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding' but like the 'don't worry I make lamb!' line! You'd also be amazed how many people seem to also think chicken isn't an animal... Ah well...

What are melitzanosalata and gigantes? Something involving aubergines and giant beans?...

I reckon side dishes & lots of them is probably the way to go. We love eating Lebanese food which has tons of delicious things that don't have meat or fish in them, and there are a few distantly related Greek dishes which are similar.

Jonathan isn't vegan so does eat dairy produce. And he hoovers up carbohydrates. (Well, everyone does when cycling). He's actually more of a 'foodie' than me when it comes to having taste buds that can really distinguish fine nuances, knowing how to prepare things properly, having a talent for combining flavours. People always think vegetarians dislike food which is so depressing when the opposite is the case... so I reckon the trick when travelling is to research some of the good things in advance and then hunt them out.

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melitzanosalata = eggplant dip, aka baba ghanoush, sans tahina. You also got revithosalata which is hummus.

Gigantes = Lima beans, usually in a tomato sauce.

Unless he's also a vegan, you should be fine with just about every form of Mezze. There's many kinds.

Edited by Jason Perlow (log)

Jason Perlow

Co-Founder, The Society for Culinary Arts & Letters

offthebroiler.com - Food Blog | View my food photos on Instagram

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Sorry I didn't tell you what those things were. If he eats dairy you will have no problems at all. The one thing I would suggest is not just telling people you are vegetarian and asking them to put plates together because a lot of people are not too clear about what that means. Not just in Greece-- you get people in the US who think chicken is vegetarian. However you can get a plate of mixed mezedes and lots of them will be vegetarian; you can eat the meat ones.

Have fun-- wish I was going!

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Hi - thanks for the 'feed'back everyone. (sorry can't resist bad puns)

so, on the list now are:

Briam

Melitzanosalata

Gigantes

Dolmades

Revithosalata

Tzatziki

Olives

General Mezze grazing

Greek yoghurt (with honey - mmm)

Arkadian Nectar (just invented that one - we will be cycling through Arkadia though. But avoiding Megalopolis)

The one thing I would suggest is not just telling people you are vegetarian and asking them to put plates together because a lot of people are not too clear about what that means.

This is true - I rarely use the word 'vegeterian' anyway because it is so loaded with weird interpretations - so end up with the long winded but more neutral 'dishes that contain no meat or fish'. Go into most restaurants and ask them if they have any 'vegetarian' food and the look on their faces is usually panic or disdain. Anyway, this thread isn't about defending vegetarians, a topic I've taken up with passion after falling in love with one...

What about delicious sticky pastries to stash in our panniers as 'emergency fuel rations' (i.e. to be scoffed before the morning's even finished)? Isn't there something involving cheese and honey, filo pastry and probably a deep frying session?

Are there any unusual things we should be hunting out? Some kind of mountain food that involves lots of starch?

Thank you also for the link, Petite tete de chou. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to give many of the Greek names of dishes but it's a great reference site - have already found a couple of recipes I want to try.

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taste "fava" whic is a humous - like paste prepared from some special beans

it must have a dark yellow colour and thick consistency

also, try steamed green beans with garlic and lemon, and "keftedes" made out of tomatoes, zucchini, or chick peas

do not forget to try "glyka tou koutaliou", which are primarily home made sweets based on fruits

athinaeos

civilization is an everyday affair

the situation is hopeless, but not very serious

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thought I'd do a report now we're back. I was really impressed by the range of delicious things available for non meat eaters, so thought it would be useful let other vegetarians know that Greece is certainly not a 'no-go' zone. In fact compared to France where we live, I'd say the general food culture on a basic, day to day level (not talking about fancy fine dining which I don't have much experience of & therefore can't comment on) was infinitely superior. (Hopefully there aren't too many francophiles reading this...)

What was also clear was that the food lives and dies by the quality of its ingredients. A 'Greek salad' in Northern Europe is probably something I'd normally avoid, but when the locally grown ingredients are so sublimely delicious, it can become something perfect, a sort of Platonic Greek salad experience. Likewise the freshly squeezed juice made from locally picked oranges in Crete - spoils you for life. Everything seems flimsily flavoured now I'm back 'up North.'

It reminded my of the basic principle with a lot of Italian cooking - if the ingredients are great, the simplest of things are delicious. But if you follow the same recipe with veg grown in Dutch greenhouses or flown in from Kenya, it can be a miserable affair. Most people now realise that those miserable little cow's milk mozzarella balls sold in supermarkets should be given another name, since they bear so little resemblance to the real thing.

I suspect this is why Greek restaurants in Northern Europe are often considered boring. While people recognise the distinction with Italian food, they just haven't made that imaginative leap with Greek food, so it continues to get patronisingly dismissed.

Anyway, a few highlights:

Since we were cycle touring on a minimal budget our focus was on simple food. I loved the whole taverna culture - which the Greeks have turned into a fine art. The simplicity and honesty of it - and the fact that you are never too far from another taverna when cyclists' 'bonk' threatens, even on the remotest mountain road in the Pelopponnese.

I loved the tiny bakeries in villages tucked away in secret valleys, with interiors that look like they haven't changed since 1910. They'd have perhaps one type of bread on sale, which looked a bit boring and dry. But was in fact full of flavour (frequently lots of olive oil) and dense with enough moisture. The perfect en-route fuel with some tomatoes and a bit of tapenade.

the spanakopita and other related pies were great but extremely greasy & not sure if you'd really want to be eating them on a regular basis if you weren't burning up thousands of calories every day...

The fruit & vegetable market in Heraklion - beautiful ingredients, 3d flavours, cheap, and lots of weird looking green things I've never seen before. Made me want to buy a whole load and borrow someone's kitchen for some enthusiastic experimenting, or buy lots of packets of seeds and find a garden...

Favourite dishes were things like 'horta' - steamed green veg, most of which seem to be any sort of green herby things harvested wild. Delicious. Fava - the hummous like thing athinaeos mentioned. Gigantes. Green beans with tomatoes and potatotes. Briam. Dolmades. Stuffed veg. Those biscuit rings covered in sesame seeds - with black coffee and maybe some joghurt and fresh fruit - perfect breakfast! It was never a problem finding delicious things to eat in fact.

There was a marked difference between the less touristy Peloponnese and Crete where the level of tourism is extraordinary and rather depressing and food prices were similar to London. We sought out the remoter roads however and were rewarded with the most exciting, constantly evolving landscape I think I've ever been in. Having the mobility of being on a bike does make it easier to find tavernas off the beaten track, which I think makes a big difference. But even in touristy spots we could find places to eat well. Even Heraklion, which seems to get a bad rap, we managed to hunt out a few good spots (near the fruit & veg market seems to be a good bet.)

Well, that's enough of a ramble. Greece is great! I'll definitely be back for second helpings...

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