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A Food-lover’s Guide to Rhodes

The largest of the Dodecanese islands, Rhodes is lapped by the Aegean Sea and is a fabulous place with a history that dates back to Neolithic times. Its divine sandy beaches – including Lindos Beach, with amazing views to the ancient Acropolis and a medieval centre – draws visitors from all over the world, as does its delicious and healthy food.

This fertile island is home to citrus, grapes and olive groves as well as an abundance of vegetables and herbs. And everything goes into the dishes that are prepared here.

As Rhodes and the other Dodecanese islands lie so close to Turkey, you will find that much of the cuisine crosses over – but it’s not just the ingredients or recipes that are similar. A love of food and eating also provides common ground between the two cultures. This means meals can last a couple of hours if not more, with Sunday lunch being an extremely popular time for Rhodian families to get together. You’ll often see large families congregating at the popular restaurants.

When dining in the wonderful restaurants, you’ll also discover that a Rhodian menu has three courses – a starter or meze, which they call mezethes, a main course and of course dessert – local freshly-cut fruit is a popular choice. If you’ve got a sweet tooth you really couldn’t be in a better place as some of the temptations are so delicious you’ll wish you could take them home with you.

  • KataÏfi is like baklava and is a traditional sweet pastry filled with nuts and soaked in a sugar or honey.
  • Loukoumades – deep-fried doughnuts soaked in honey syrup with cloves and cinnamon.
  • Galaktoboureko – like the sweet version of a boureko – pastry filled with cheese, this is filled with delicious egg custard.

Among the mezes you could go for the following.

  • Melitzana Psiti – roasted eggplant, which can be served with garlic, yogurt and nuts.
  • Yiaprakia – stuffed grape or cabbage leaves filled with rice and meat.
  • Fasolakia – a stew made from green beans, onions, tomatoes, red peppers, parsley, olive oil.

When you think of Greek food – or even snacks – humous, tzatziki, olives and cheese might be some of the first things that pop to mind. And with so many goats roaming around the mountainsides, a lot of the cheeses are made out of or include goat’s cheese.

The Greeks are so enamoured by cheese that the ancient Greeks even named a Greek god – Aristaeus – after it. Feta is commonly found here and is also included in the ever-popular Greek salad, which comes with sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, onion, kalamata olives, and seasoned with salt, oregano and olive oil. Green bell-pepper slices or capers might also be included, especially in the Dodecanese islands.

Cucumbers and sliced cheese are also served with the breakfasts, which come with delicious locally made fruit jams, bread and eggs. With the Aegean Sea on their doorsteps, fish is a very popular dish with the Rhodians. Some of the delicious options are sea bass, sea bream, lobster and octopus – which are often hanging up at the beach side restaurants the moment they’re scooped from the sea. A couple of the typical dishes include the following.

  • Fried calamari served with a local beer such as Mythos.
  • Rouzetia me skorthalia – unique to Rhodes. Small red fishes fried with a garlic sauce.
  • Astakomakaronada – Greek style lobster pasta with a tomato sauce, wine, onion, olive oil, and cinnamon.

When in Greece you must also try the lamb – the chops, paidakia, are lovely grilled. Other main courses usually include meat or chicken, and a nice selection of vegetarian dishes utilises the many vegetables that grow on the island.

To end a meal it’s nice to have a Greek coffee – which boasts a rich taste and scent like Arabic coffee, unsurprising considering that it is Arabic in origin. Prepared in the briki, a typical long-handled copper pot, it’s usually accompanied by a glass of water. The coffee and the sweets haven’t done the Greeks any harm – their overall fresh Mediterranean diet and regular activity makes them some of the healthiest people in the world.