Whilst we were in Chania, a lady from Popay – the excellent restaurant we frequented – asked us about the difference between Greek and Turkish food. Which was interesting. Assuming we are talking about Aegean food of Greece and Turkey. There are some very obvious similarities. Both make extensive use of wild herbs (though, in Turkey, oregano is not really distinguished from thyme – both are used dried rather than fresh and most frequently to make teas). Both make extensive use of dried pulses and olive oil. There are also some very obvious differences. In Greece you get quite a lot of pork. Pork gyros, pork souvlaki and pork casseroles of various types. In Greece they use more cinnamon and less sumac and allspice. In Greece you get wonderful feta.
We really enjoyed the food we had on holiday. We ate masses of feta, souvlaki, gyros, moussaka, stews and casseroles and swordfish. We didn’t eat any chicken (we eat loads and loads of chicken at home because it’s so good and so cheap here). It was a wonderful change but, first day home we went for lunch at Hacı Baba in Tire – a timely reminder of just how wonderful Turkish food can be!
There are more subtle differences – differences in the types of pulses used. We bought gigantia beans in Santorini, we can’t get the really, really huge beans here in Turkey. We strongly suspect that in Greece they cook more with alcohol. That would not be approved of here as many people do not touch it (many people, of course, do touch it but that doesn’t make it a traditional ingredient in cooking) and that is what gives the stews and casseroles their particular richness. Here in Turkey the richness comes from onions and tomatoes and, of course, stock.
Sometimes the difference is in the name. Fava in Turkey is broad beans commonly pureed, in Greece it is a lentil puree. The Greek version of fava is a speciality of Santorini though does turn up elsewhere, we saw it on the menu in Crete. We don’t think yellow split peas would taste quite the same but might be close. We really liked the Greek fava and bought some of the dried lentils home along with the recipe.