The Tastes of Lesvos

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The Tastes of Lesvos

Sea food lovers will  find great tastes of many different kinds of fish, prepared through traditional ways in Lesvos. Sea food in Lesvos comes from really fresh fish, which come out of the sea every morning  by local fishermen. Most of their fish catch is been sold just when the boats wharf, mostly around the boats in an atypical flea market every single morning.  A part of their fish catch is been bought straight away by local taverns, where will be prepared in various ways, which make Lesvos sea food so famous for its taste.

The most well known and beloved sea food in Lesvos is sardines. Sardines is the most famous snack to accompany ouzo. Sardines are found all over maritime villages in Lesvos. They are prepared in several ways. Another well known sea food in Lesvos is salted fish. Fish is preserved exclusively with salt. Salted fish is also another snack which accompanies ouzo. Octopuses caught just short time ago can be seen hang under the sun at many maritime villages, like Skala Simamnias, Plomari, Sigri. Octopuses cooked on colas, served with olive oil and easel are maybe the most famous sea food snack in Lesvos. Calamary is another famous sea food, which is cooked in several ways, on colas, or boiled and served with dressing. Last but not least, ostracea maybe the most beloved sea food in Lesvos, but also difficult to find. Lobster and crawfish are the most expensive but also very delicious sea food in Lesvos. Alternatively, sea food lovers can try scampi which are caught more easily by fishermen.

Wine, olive and bread were symbols of life – civilized life – in ancient Greece. These were man-made and refined products, representing man’s victory over dependency on nature’s raw products.
Some other key ingredients defining tastes in ancient food were honey, vinegar and sauce based on salted fish, along with vegetables, fish and meat. Wine mixed with honey, bread, appetisers, fruit, fresh fish and then meat. The epidorpion; “dessert”, would often consist of nuts, dried fruits, pies, sweets, cheese and during the night: wine mixed with water.

The ancient cuisine was continued by the Romans, and glorified in their much described feasts. This excess so uncharacteristic for the Greeks were eliminated during the modesty-seeking Byzantine Era, and the Greek tastes spread throughout the Eastern Empire.

Unfortunately it takes an effort to find real, authentic food today as many traditional taverns have become more mainstream and the old receipts adjusted to the tastes of tourism. But the pride in the food is still there, as is the deeply rooted social affair of sharing a meal. Greek food is best when enjoyed in Greece, and Lesvos is an ideal place to discover, sense and taste the Aegean gastronomy.


With a remarkably advanced civilization already in the Bronze age, the Lesvians were amongst the first able to produce olive oil. The high quality oil surpassed wine in importance on ancient Lesvos, and the virgin “golden oil” is also today known for its taste, texture, richness in single insatiable fatty acids, low levels of chlorophyll, and is a very important part of the cooking. Today as before, the island is close to be self-sufficient as most goods can be harvested form the fruitful land and rich seas.

The secrets behind the tastes of Lesvos are both well known and appreciated; Seasonal, local vegetables allowed to mature under the Aegean sun, free grazing sheep and goats giving the meat and milk its unique taste, wild growing herbs, the many cheeses, the tasty fish and plenty of good oil – combined with local ouzo or wine.

Ouzo has a 200 years tradition on Lesvos, and special ouzo-mezedes (small appetisers) have got a new popularity. With the Gulf of Kalloni being especially rich, the seafood on Lesvos is unique and sough after.

The sardines of Kalloni are the best in Greece, and many com e to enjoy these and the tasty oysters.

Try also fresh shellfish, clams or the traditional salted sardines, anchovies and types of mackerel.

Feta cheese: Lesvos has several of them, such as the hard-cheese Graviera, often served fried.

Lesvos also has other specialties, such as as Sfouggato, the local vegetable marrow, and kiskieki, a special mix of minced meat and wheat often found at festivals and religious events.

With a history so connected to Asia Minor, many typical dishes on Lesvos are common with those found in parts of Turkey today, while not so usual on mainland Greece. One example is Imam, baked eggplant, another is Soutzoukakia, spice, tasty meatballs in tomato sauce. The pastry-sweet baklava has the same name in Turkey, and Turkish (Greek) coffee is made and drunk after the same principles as in the neighbouring country.

As receipts are being forgotten, the “Women Co-operative of Lesvos” work on a volunteer basis to preserve knowledge and produce typical food, especially sweets. Outside of Molivos they have a combined cafe and shop.

When eating out, try choosing your food after where you are: meat in the mountains, seafood at the coast. Whether you choose traditional cooked food or a delicious selection of mezedes, remember that the main ingredient of the meal is not placed on the table: it is the company you share the food with.

Take into consideration that the Lesviots always emphasize the “sharing” part of a meal: Instead of ordering individual dishes, share a selection between you, and pick from the different plates. In general the knife is used mostly to cut the food in smaller pieces, while a piece of bread and your fork is more than sufficient to eat and enjoy. If a friend pass by, why not invite him to the table and share the day and tastes with him? When it eventually is time to pay, one person normally pays the table bill: As there for sure will be another time and another shared meal, somebody else will pay the next time.

Special food for special days

Traditionally Wednesdays and Fridays are vegetarian days for all Greeks, but this is not followed as strictly anymore.

The start of the 40 days of Lent is often marked with village gatherings and vegetarian dishes such as taramosalata (roe salad), sweet halva and bread. Even if few places serve meat at all the first days of the Lent, the tradition is fading and meat is found on tables also before Easter.

Easter is the most important religious event in Greece, and of course it has its special dishes. The sweet bread and bright red eggs are on all tables, and the grilled or stuffed lamb is enjoyed together with family, friends and neighbours in gardens, houses and taverns on Easter Sunday.

Lamb is associated with festive events, and used to be typical for weddings and also on 1st May.

Home made marzipan is traditionally served at engagements and at wedding anniversaries, and on the first day of the New Year a special pie with a “lucky coin” hidden inside is eaten.

Birthdays are normally not celebrated, but on your name day you offer your friends sweets or cake – and if you go out: you pay for the table.

Lesvos is known for its many festivals, and at the Festival of the Bull beef is naturally served, as are sardines at the Festival of the Sardines. When churches or villages have celebrations, the special kiskieki is often offered to participants.

One year after someone’s death, this is marked in church with serving of wine mixed with olive oil and cinnamon and special shaped bread to church-goers, villagers, friends and family.

Some common, traditional dishes:

Moussaka: The Greek dish regarded as more typical by foreigners than locals. Layers of eggplant, minced meat and bechamel sauce.
Hirino Lemonato: Pork-meat served the traditional way: with lemon sauce.
Kokkinisto: Tasty dish with beef in “kokkino”; red, tomato sauce.
Gemista: Tomatoes and peppers stuffed with rice.
Bamies: Fresh okra in tomato sauce.
Tiropita: Traditional feta-cheese pie.
Gigantes: White giant beans (honey beans) in tomato sauce.
Fakes: Thick lentil soup, often eaten with garlic cloves and vinegar.
Agginares: Boiled artichokes and other vegetables.

Choosing ouzo-mezedes

Ouzo is more or less never drunk without something to nibble on. The always essential bread will normally be put on the table first, here are some general ideas to get you started ordering mezedes.
Olives and salads are nice with everything, also ouzo. Why not try red or white taramosalata (roe-salad), a few salted sardines, a piece of salted mackerel, and when eating in Skala Kallonis; the famous local fried or grilled sardines fresh from the Gulf. Fried calamari, prawns and octopus grilled or in vinegar are fantastic combinations with ouzo. Try also fried and/or stuffed vegetables, something pickled, small pitas, fried hard-cheese (graviéra) or feta baked in the oven. To really enjoy the tastes, use a peace of bread to scoop up sauce and oil from the plates.