Lesvos Food Treats to Enjoy on your Holiday
We can all agree that the Mediterranean diet is second to none when it comes to nutritional value and flavour. As such, none of the local tavernas here on Lesvos will disappoint because its inhabitants have high standards - why would they eat out if their mother cooks better?
If you’re already familiar with some Greek specialities such as dolmades, fava, melitzanosalata and souvlaki of course, why not venture into the unknown and discover some of Lesvos’ specialities?
All of Lesvos’ fish is caught in its surrounding waters, so it is always fresh and the selection is always seasonal - you can even watch the fishermen hand deliver their daily catch! Equally, the meat on the island is reared on Lesvos’ mountain-sides and the cheese you will find on offer is always local too!
Locals are particularly proud of their island’s specialities so visit one of the island many food festivals to sample the local food and find out why! It's always worth asking what’s recommended in each place you visit as they'll be only too happy to help.
What is Greek Meze?
‘Meze’ is from the Turkish literally meaning ‘appetiser’, originally from the Persian ‘maza’ meaning ‘to relish’. This way of eating is common to the ex-Ottoman Empire, the Levant and, to a lesser degree, the Balkans.
Meze, in Greece, are small dishes accompanied by alcohol like raki, ouzo or tsipouro, and by great conversation with family and friends! Some of the ‘meze’ offered all over Greece include tzatziki, grilled hot peppers, smoked aubergine with feta, tomato and parsley. Other tasty dishes include ‘bougiourdi’ (grilled feta in a clay pot with hot peppers), fava beans dip, okra ‘bamiehs’, fried fish and different fragrant meat stews served with flatbread.
The ‘meze’ style of eating is the most common among Greeks who prefer sharing a bit of everything rather than committing to one dish. Greek food culture is certainly perfect for the indecisive among us!
Let’s start with the meze (small plates) on offer almost exclusively on Lesvos. Giousleme or fried cheese pies are a fantastic meze and can be made with pastourma (Greek beef cured in spices) and red peppers too. Kolokitholoulouda is also a classic dish of Lesvos; zucchini flowers, picked from the zucchini plant at dawn while the flowers are still open, are stuffed with meat and rice or can be served vegetarian, with cheese, onion and herbs & spices.
Sometimes these might be served battered and fried - they are a real favourite of the Real Lesvos Team! Tomato-keftedes are like tomato-balls or scrumptious meatless patties, usually served with tzatziki which are a classic meze here too.
Don’t forget to order Ladotiri, unofficially named ‘butter cheese’: it is traditionally stored in olive oil and is made up from a mixture of sheep and goat milk. Ladotiri is often served as ‘saganaki’ on the menu - fried or grilled with a side of lemon.
What other Lesvos food should I sample?
Fish lovers will enjoy the Lakerda (known as ‘bonito’ fish in English) which is served ‘pasti’, raw with lemon and olive oil - the Greek version of sushi. Grilled squid stuffed with herbs, pine nuts, rice and dried fruit is also a classic, lemony dish worth trying on your trip.
The island boasts of many different types of seafood ‘pilafi’ but the regional speciality to look out for is the pilafi with scallops and spinach, not made anywhere else in Greece.
Meat lovers, rejoice! Kebab? Souvlaki? Kontosouvli? Gyro? Find any of these beautifully seasoned grilled meats on the island as well as much, much more. Try Sogania which look like baked onion dolmades stuffed with ground meat, commonly beef or lamb, pine nuts, rice (or sometimes barley or oatmeal) with the classic seasoning of garlic, parsley, fresh tomatoes and warming spices like cumin and nutmeg.
Beef dishes are quite rare on Lesvos island but braised beef with quince is a luxurious dish served here that is truly unforgettable. Greeks love lamb and Lesvos’ islanders are no exception - they have really perfected their lamb dishes!
Try the popular festive dish of braised stuffed lamb with liver, raisins and pine nuts. Or try the yoghurt ‘yiaourtlou’ lamb - fresh yoghurt is added to the lamb during the cooking process which makes the meat as juicy and tender as possible.
Because Lesvos is the chief producer of ouzo (the national drink of Greece) you can even try the Keftedes with ouzo and cumin which are a twist on the classic meatball served with lemon. Sample with some local wine and enjoy!
Bon Appétit or, as the locals say, Kali Orexi!