In Greece, food is much more than simply sustenance. It’s culture, comfort, family, hospitality and life itself. Greeks love to eat and they love to feed others. This is one country where you’re guaranteed to never go hungry.
Greek culinary traditions date back centuries and have evolved to absorb many influences over time. At its core, Greek food consists of simple, freshly prepared, seasonal food complemented with subtle flavourings that add a little magic to your plate.
This is especially true in Rhodes, where local cuisine has been influenced by Ottoman and Italian occupations. Local cooks keep a spice box close at hand while preparing food, and that subtle Eastern influence is evident in many local specialities.
Following our recent post about the best places to eat in Rhodes, it’s time to turn our attention to what’s on your plate. Here’s our guide to Greek food in Rhodes and a taster of what you can sample on a Rhodes food tour.
Traditional Greek Food in Rhodes
Greek food is renowned for its range of dishes, from tender grilled meats and fresh fish to delicious salads and syrupy pastries – and Rhodes is no different. Here, local products and closely guarded family recipes keep traditional Rhodes cuisine alive.
The Rhodian diet is highly varied. There’s an abundance of fresh fruit, vegetables, wild greens, olives, cereals and legumes. The surrounding Aegean Sea offers a bounty of delicious fish and seafood, while goats and sheep are prized for their meat and dairy products, such as local myzithra cheese. Refreshing Greek yoghurt, aromatic honey flavoured with sage or thyme, and wine from Embonas all add to the tastes that will flavour your stay.
Let’s take a look at some of the Greek food found on menus in Rhodes.
Greek Fast Food
Fast food exists in Greece, but it certainly isn’t junk food!
Souvlaki is the most popular – succulent chunks of chicken or pork, cooked on a skewer. Eat your souvlaki off the skewer with chips, pita and tzatziki (Greek yoghurt flavoured with garlic and cucumber). Or try a souvlaki pita where the chunks of meat are wrapped in the pita alongside the other ingredients. Alternatively, fill your pita with gyros – meat cooked on a vertical spit.
If you fancy a mid-morning snack, pop into a bakery and grab a slice of spinach pie (spanakopita) or cheese pie (tiropita), both made with flaky filo pastry.
Meze (short for mezedes) are small, shared plates, similar to Spanish tapas. Perfect as a snack to accompany drinks or as a starter, they can also be ordered as a casual meal to share between friends.
Some of the most popular meze in Rhodes are taramosalata (a pink dip made with cod roe), dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), and melitzanosalata (roast aubergine dip). Other favourites include saganaki (salty fried cheese), pitaroudia (fried chickpea balls with tomato and onion), and horta (wild greens drizzled with olive oil and lemon).
The selection of fish meze includes small fried fish (sardines, whitebait, anchovies), calamari, grilled squid, octopus and small fried Symi shrimps. If you fancy meat, try keftedes (meatballs) or spicy Greek sausages.
Typical Greek Dishes
Locally caught fish and seafood dominate menus, alongside locally raised lamb, goat and poultry. There are also some traditional dishes that must be sampled. We highly recommend moussaka (layers of aubergine, mince and béchamel sauce) and pastitsio (layers of ground beef or lamb with macaroni and béchamel sauce, topped with cheese). Those two are the ultimates in Greek comfort food.
Two popular stews are kleftiko (slow-roast lamb) and stifado (rabbit or beef cooked with onions), while seasonal vegetables take centre stage in dishes such as yemitsa (peppers, tomatoes, aubergine or courgette stuffed with minced meat and herbs).
The wealth of locally grown cereals and grains has resulted in a wide variety of pasta, such as makarounia, matsi and koulouria. And no meal is complete without a fresh, zesty salad – horiatiki is the most popular, a ‘village salad’ made from sweet, ripe tomatoes, peeled cucumber, black olives and peppers dressed with oil, feta and oregano.
Rhodes is a paradise for foodies with a sweet tooth! Popular desserts include baklava (filo pastry filled with nuts and dripping with honey) and loukoumades (deep fried honey balls dipped in honey and cinnamon). We also love halva (sweet dessert that’s either made from tahini paste or semolina and flavoured with nuts, honey or chocolate). And, of course, there’s Greek yoghurt drizzled with honey and walnuts.
You can also round off a meal with fruit. Choose either a plate of fresh fruit or traditional Greek spoon sweets. Those consist of nuts or fruits such as plums, orange, apricot, walnuts, cherries or quince preserved in thick syrup.
If you’d like a personal guide to Greek food in Rhodes, try one of our popular Rhodes food tours from a four-hour jaunt through the Medieval Town of Rhodes to a full-day ‘meet the locals’ food experience. For an insight into the perfect wines to complement the flavours of Rhodes, book our Rhodes wine tasting tour.
To learn more about any of our tours or to arrange a bespoke trip, contact Rhodes Experience today. We look forward to giving you a flavour of our beautiful island.