Finding a restaurant with vegetarian or vegan options in Greece is easy. Traditional Greek diet consists mainly of dishes prepared with fresh vegetables, dried legumes, wild greens or grains such as barley. In many cases you will find imaginative combinations of the above, varying from one area of Greece to the other. There is a strong locality in Greek vegetarian cuisine: in Epirus you will taste delicious savory pies made by wild greens, in Santorini “fava” (puree made from split peas), in Thessaly “kapakoto” (eggplant baked in a spicy tomato sauce), in Crete “sympetherió” (legume and wheat-berry stew), and so on.
To quote Diane Kochilas, author of my favorite Greek vegetarian cookbook (“The Greek Vegetarian”), “the backbone of the cuisine has always been what is harvested, in either wild or cultivated form, from the earth”.
What is a “Magirío”?
For me the best spots to try authentic Greek vegetarian cuisine are the abundant “magiría” (plural for “magirío”). Although there is nothing fancy about them, their popularity never seems to fade. There are only but a few tables in a “magirío”, meaning that usually you get to share your table with other eaters. Locals go there usually for lunch, to eat “comfort food”, that costs close to nothing. The service is straightforward, the number of dishes limited and the “interior design”…well…”Greek” as in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” minus Nia Vardalos.
At a “magirío” you get to choose from 4-6 different dishes. Among them there are at least 2-3 vegetarian dishes, which are usually the “old classics”: stuffed tomatoes and peppers (“gemistá”), giant beans in tomato sauce (“gigantes”), or vegetable medley (“briám”).
Have you ever tried Greek vegetarian dishes? What is your favorite cuisine?
(References: “The Greek Vegetarian” by Diane Kochilas)