Mediterranean Holiday Series 3- Athens
Souvlaki – meat on a stick
Souvlaki must be one of the simpler snacks available, cubes of meat grilled on a skewer, and definitely one of the more popular Greek street foods. Much depends on the marinade and when the post-party hunger calls, few foods are more satisfying.
Trendy Snack Bars
There has been a trend throughout the world, to tap back into our nations’ gritty, basic street food culture and feature these loved foods, using exceptionally high quality produce in a modern setting (with wifi).
In Cape Town, we have Gourmet Boerie, a restaurant that serves the famous South African boerewors (farmer’s sausage) using a range of high quality meats such as beef, lamb, ostrich and even chicken with high end toppings such as sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese, in a choice of hot dog buns. Purists, and lovers of the parking-lot and Saturday braai (BBQ) boerie may wince, but there is a market, and a need to enjoy the comfort foods of our youth.……while at the same time tapping into free access to the innerwebs.
Meatropoleos 3 in Athens does just this with souvlaki, offering a choice of meats, in a hip, pared down setting with really good looking staff. I asked our hotel for tips to old school souvlaki stands and the young reception staff looked quizzical “Meatropoleos is the best” they asserted. As in, why would I want to go gritty when I could show a shred of class and frequent the best local spot for fast grilled meat?
I think sometimes tourists need to preserve a sense of our guidebook understanding and expectations of a place.
While I think restaurants like Meatropoleos go a long way in preserving food culture by keeping up with current market needs, there’s a lot to be said about a 3 am souvlaki, hot off the grill, eaten on the street corner under a lampost with smudged lipstick and your hair smelling of cigarette smoke from the bar.
You will note that the big American fast food franchises are not supported in Greece. “Why would we, when we eat so good?” said a cab driver when I chatted to him about Greek food.
Welcome The Souvlaki Hot Dog
Months ago, I wrote a piece on winter food trends and the hot dog topped the burger as the snack to watch.
Formerly the enclave of roadside diners and late night post-party food, hamburgers have become the meal of the moment. Hot dogs have seen a recent resurgence and are set to give the hamburger a healthy tap on the bun. The difference between these hot dogs and the lurid pink vienna hot dogs of our youth, is the quality of sausage used and home-crafted sauces. Chef Bertus Basson of award winning fine dining restaurant Overture, has brought his kitsch but retro yellow hot dog van Die Wors Rol, complete with sexy mascot Betsie into town and put hot dogs on the map again.
And so, the natural conclusion was the souvlaki hot dog – instead of pita, we have the soft bun, topped with lots of hummus and Medi Deli’s tri colour dip – a layered spread of cream cheese, basil pesto, sun dried tomatoes- all things Mediterranean and sunshiny. Perfect picnic food.
250 g rump or sirloin, 1 – 1.5 cm thick
1/2 t dried thyme
3 T mint leaves, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped finely
salt, to taste
4 short wooden skewers
4 soft hotdog buns
Mediterranean Delicacies Hummus
Mediterranean Delicacies Tri Colour Dip
1. Cut steak into 2cm cubes. In a bowl coat cubes with thyme, mint, garlic and olive oil. Leave to marinade for an hour, covered, in a cool spot.
2. Thread cubes onto skewers. Heat non-stick pan on high. Fry, turning on each side, for a few minutes, depending on how you prefer your meat done. Sprinkle with salt after cooking.
3. Slice hotdog buns lengthwise in half, spread hummus and top with souvlaki. Spread tri-colour dip (cream cheese, basil pesto, sun-dried tomato and pine nuts) on top half of bun.
Do remember to remove the skewer sticks and enjoy with ouzo and lots of ice.
Sights around Athens
Scenes from the Vegetable Market – just realised my old youtube account was deleted with my other google plus profile, so created new one
This post forms part of the series of recipes I am preparing for Mediterranean Delicacies. It is a Food and the Fabulous Endorsed project and I will be remunerated for it.