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Greek Food and the Specialities of Halki and Tilos

To Greeks, food is a way of life and eating out is a national pastime. Greek food is deliciously simple, yet it’s some of the healthiest and tastiest food you’ll ever have the pleasure of eating.

The Greek kitchen is based around fresh, local ingredients. Olive oil, fresh vegetables, cheese, yoghurt, local herbs (especially oregano, rosemary and thyme), seafood, beef, pork, lamb, olives, and honey.

The food in the Dodecanese varies a little from that on many other Greek islands. There’s a subtle eastern influence here – a throwback to the time of Ottoman rule – notable in the spices added to meals. Although you’ll still find all of your favourite Greek dishes here.

Here’s an overview of Greek food, along with a look at some of the specialities of Halki and Tilos.

Greek Fast Food

Yes, there is such a thing! (And it’s much better than the sort of fast food you’re probably used to!)

Traditional Greek fast food is souvlaki. Succulent chunks of chicken or pork, cooked on a skewer, traditionally served with chips, pita and tzatziki (Greek yoghurt flavoured with garlic and cucumber). You can also eat a souvlaki pita, where the chunks of meat are rolled in a pita with chips and tzatziki. Or try gyros, meat cooked on a vertical spit and served in the same way.

Other options for a quick snack can be found in Greek bakeries, where you can grab a slice of spinach pie (spanakopita) or cheese pie (tiropita), both made with flaky filo pastry.

Mezedes

Meze (short for mezedes) are small, shared plates, similar to Spanish tapas, and they’re one of the most popular ways of eating. You can order meze as appetisers, a snack, or as a casual meal.

Some of the most popular meze are taramosalata (pink dip made with cod roe), dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), melitzanosalata (roast aubergine dip), saganaki (salty fried cheese), and fritters, which can be made from a variety of ingredients including tomatoes, chickpeas, courgette, and pumpkin.

You can also choose from a selection of fish meze, including small fried fish (sardines, whitebait, anchovies), calamari, grilled squid and octopus. Or meat meze, such as keftedes (meatballs) and spicy Greek sausages.

Typical Greek Dishes

Locally caught fish and locally raised grilled meats and poultry are a staple of many main courses. However, there are a number of traditional Greek dishes, which must be sampled, including:

  • Moussaka: Greek comfort food at its finest, comprising layers of aubergine, mince and béchamel sauce.
  • Pastitsio: Similar to Italian lasagne, made up of layers of ground beef or lamb with macaroni and béchamel sauce, and topped with cheese.
  • Kleftiko: Slow-roast lamb stew marinated in garlic, lemon and herbs.
  • Stifado: Rabbit stew cooked with onions. Sometimes beef is substituted for rabbit.
  • Yemista: Vegetables – usually peppers, tomatoes, aubergine or courgette – baked and stuffed with minced meat and herbs.
  • Horiatiki: Greek salad, made from sweet, ripe tomatoes, peeled cucumber, black olives, peppers and a block of feta. Dressed with olive oil and a dash of red wine vinegar, and sprinkled with oregano.

Sweets

If you have a sweet tooth, you’ve come to the right place. Baklava (filo pastry filled with nuts and dripping with honey) is often used to top off a meal, as is Greek yoghurt and honey. Other sweet treats include loukoumades (deep fried honey balls dipped in honey and cinnamon) and halva (sweet dessert that’s either made from tahini paste or semolina, and flavoured with nuts, honey or chocolate).

Specialities of Halki

Each region and island of Greece has its own culinary specialities, which are a great way to sample local ingredients.

As a fishing island, freshly caught fish is always available, and Halki shrimps are a delicious delicacy – small, sweet, local shrimps cooked in their shells and eaten whole.

Halki pasta is small, distinctive local pasta, served with fried onions and goats’ cheese. Ofto is another lip-smackingly good main meal, made of local lamb stuffed with rice and kidneys, and baked in the oven.

Halki is also known for its excellent thyme honey, delicious drizzled over thick, creamy Greek yoghurt.

Specialities of Tilos

Many of the specialities on Tilos revolve around goat, including stuffed goat baked in the oven, goat in lemon sauce, and goat stew. You can also try yiaprakia (vine leaves stuffed with minced meat), kavourmas (fried pork) or koulousoufades (entrails stuffed with ground beef or chopped livers, rice and local herbs). Tilos also makes its own, local pasta, koulouria, often served with tomato sauce or cheese and butter.

Other specialities of Tilos are the local thyme honey, traditional hard cheese, dried fragrant herbs, and lots of sweet treats, including pouggakia (pastry filled with almonds and sesame seeds).

Holiday in Halki and Tilos with Nissia Holidays

If all this talk of Greek food has whet your appetite and you want to sample the culinary delights of the Dodecanese, particularly the two unspoilt islands of Halki or Tilos (or both!), see our accommodation pages.

For more information or to book your holiday in Halki or Tilos, contact Nissia Holidays on 01455 289421 or email us: info@nissiaholidays.com.

Jo

Jo worked on Tilos in 2006, as the last Island Manager for Laskarina. She now runs a travel writing business and travel blog, The Wandering Wordsmith, and spends much of her year travelling. But Greece, especially Tilos, will always hold a special place in her heart.

  1. Bob (Robert) says:

    I understand “HALKI” is a substance (plant?) used in Greek cuisine. Sorry to bother you but is it a dressing, dry addition like salt pepper etc or a mystery type concoction? ( I have even asked about it in a local “Greek” food restaurant without luck?)

    Enjoyed the your article that triggered this response ! We are looking at Greece for our next holiday.

    Thanks
    Bob

    1. Hello dear Bob,

      Many thanks for your message! Halki is the name of the island in the Dodecanese. You may read more about it here https://www.nissiaholidays.com/ultimate-guide-halki/ – Wishing you all the best for a great holiday in Greece!

  2. Krista Hogmire says:

    I read about 2 dressings often used on Halki island in Greece, if know about this, can you send me the 2 dressings recipes? Sincerely Krista Hogmire

  3. Mildred lash says:

    I would love to get the two Greek recipes for their dressings also.my mother-in-law was an Italian and she made the best Italian dressing.I’ve been hearing about these two different Greek recipes for their dressing and if you have them I would love to get them

  4. Fernando Silva says:

    I’m interested in the recipe that they use in Halki Greece I heard they are great for diabetes.

  5. Amy Hunnel says:

    I noticed that you have not answered anybody’s question. Is it a recipe . Is it a dressing for salad. Is it some form of gravy. Is it something that you put in all your food like a plant product extender. Would love to have you email me and tell me that answers to these questions. As I have a sister that is about 1:50 pounds overweight and type one diabetes. Thank you

  6. Joanne Amos says:

    Hello, and thanks for your questions on the Halki diet and diabetes. My apologies for not replying sooner – I’ve been trying to find out more about it. As far as I can establish, it isn’t a particular diet or recipe established by the islanders; it’s a diet programme that somebody has put together based upon the diet of Halki, called the Halki Diabetes Remedy. I don’t have access to the recipes without buying the programme. It’s slightly separate to the island and organised in such a way that you need to buy into their program to find out more about it. I’m sorry I cannot be of more help with this.

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