Ten Greek Dishes Foreigners Find Hard to Stomach (but Change Their Mind When They Do)

Greeks do not eat strange or rare animals, much less stranger insects. Greek cuisine would hardly entice Andrew Zimmern, presenter of the famous Bizarre Foods television show, to take a trip over and try some dishes. Yet, there are some that many foreigners would not dare taste. Their loss, some would say. But if one finds lamb intestines — for instance — gross, then who is to judge them?

Lamb on the spit

At Easter time, but also during many other festive events in the countryside, the sight of one — or many — lambs slowly turning on the spit is as common as sunny days in the summer. The charred skin before the inside of the lamb is ready is a delicacy worth fighting for, and Greeks often do. And when the whole lamb is ready, one realizes that there is no better way to cook this meat.

Kokoretsi

On the occasion of the mad cow disease, the EU had issued a directive banning the consumption of certain organs of sheep, goats and cattle (such as spleen, brains and heads), so the kokoretsi was almost outlawed at some point. For many Greeks that would be reason enough to leave the EU. Who can resist lamb liver, hearts, lungs and spleen wrapped with the (carefully washed) intestines of the animal and slowly cooked on the spit, again.

Gardoumba

This is a minimized version of the kokoretsi. Again, it is smaller portions of innards wrapped with intestines. Gardoumba, however, is not roasted on the spit but can be boiled or cooked in the oven.

Mageiritsa

Another Easter dish made with — you guessed it — intestines and innards. It is a soup basically, eaten to settle the stomach right after the Resurrection of Christ and the 40-day Fast. It has finely chopped intestines, livers, hearts along with chopped lettuce and dill and an egg and lemon sauce (avgolemono).

Patsas

The famous tripe, the favorite dish after an alcohol binge. Since we are talking about a soup made out of a pig’s stomach and feet boiled with plenty of garlic and vinegar and accompanied by lots of crushed red pepper, it has medicinal purposes after many drinks. It helps the stomach settle and absorb the alcohol. It is usually eaten very late at night or in the early morning hours after staying out late.

Spinialo

It is the traditional way residents of Kalymnos island preserve and eat the meat of a particular kind of shellfish called fouska. They sterilize vases and put in the shellfish and cover it with seawater, salt and olive oil so that there is no air entering the vase. They have an intense iodine flavor but Kalymnians say they are delicious.

Hohlii

They are the snails that the French eat, but in Crete they call them hohlii (plural). Cretans cook them in several different sauces and serve them with different vegetables or by themselves.

Tziyerosarmas

Greeks have a thing for the offal! Another traditional recipe, this one from Northern Greece. It is offal again, but this time it is wrapped with lamb or goat membranes of fat.

Boumbari

This is a local specialty of Pelion: A huge sausage with chopped liver, rice herbs and spices wrapped inside an intestine. Delicious and much less dirty than the average sausage or hot dog.

Kourkoutzelia

Finally a strange Greek dish that has no lamb meat or offal. Kourkoutzelia (plural of kourkoutzeli) or kalogerakia or kalogeri, are nothing more than edible wildflowers. They are sauteed in the pan with garlic and fennel. Some boil them and serve them as a salad, accompany them with fried eggs or pickle them. According to those who have tried them, they are very tasty.