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A true indulgence for any seafood lover, Greek cuisine has a long-standing history of delighting taste buds with its impressive array of fish dishes, heavily influenced by fresh and local ingredients. As it is rooted in antiquity, Greek cooking has evolved alongside the oceanic bounty that the Mediterranean Sea provides - ensuring that fish remain a quintessential component of their gastronomic culture. When one steps into a traditional Greek taverna, a culinary adventure awaits as patrons can savour different species of fish that Greeks have long cherished. From the classic grilled octopus to the fragrant seafood stews, every dish promises an unparalleled explosion of flavours, textures and aromas that are synonymous with the Greek dining experience. So why not dive into the vibrant world of Greece's seafood offerings and explore the mouth-watering treasures that have captured palates for centuries?
Here are four of the most loved fish species cooked in the Greek tavernas.
- Sea urchin, Ahinos
Greek name: Αχινός (Ah – hee – NOHS)
Scientific name: Paracentrotus lividus
About this Animal: The round, spiky and deep purple-black sea urchin is most commonly found in the shallow waters of the Mediterranean Sea. You must be mindful when taking a dip as they often thrive on rocky parts of the seabed - so watch your step! Feeding off nearby plant life keeps them nourished and happy. Plus, its modern Greek name 'achinos' derives from ancient Greek word echinos (which translates to hedgehog) - how cool is that?
How You Can Enjoy It: From the roe of the animal, one can experience a flavour somewhere in between caviar and oyster - known as uni within Japan. In summertime, Greeks often harvest them personally and consume them right on the beach; however this activity is illegal with hefty penalties for those who disregard such regulations. Only licensed fishermen are allowed to gather sea urchins during specific months of each year.
-lobster , Astakos
Scientific name: Homarus gammarus, Palinurus elephas
About this Animal: While travelling in Greece, you'll find yourself indulging on the most succulent astakos lobsters. These delicious crustaceans are mainly caught around tiny uninhabited islands of the Aegean Sea and come in three different varieties: karavidomana (European lobster), with its big claws; astakos agathotos (European spiny lobster) distinguished by two lengthy antennae; or finally, the Mediterranean slipper lobster also known as 'kolohtipa', which looks like a mix between a bulldozer and a standard-sized lobster!
How You Can Enjoy It: Astakos is commonly cooked with tomato, garlic and herbs, then served over pasta (a dish referred to as astakomakaronada that you can find at many seafood restaurants). But if grilled is more your style, simply serve it with a squeeze of lemon juice and either oil or butter.
- Mediterranean sand smelt, Atherina
Greek Name: Αθερίνα (Ah – thehr – EE – nah)
Scientific Name: Atherina hepsetus
About this Animal: Atherina are a species of minuscule fish that reach anywhere between 8-15 cm in length. They live and thrive in shoals on the surface, feasting on plankton for sustenance.
How You Can Enjoy It: Enjoy these delectable fish that have been coated with a flour-based batter, fried to perfection and eaten whole just like marides.
-European Hake, Bakaliarakia
Greek Name: Μπακαλιάρος (Bah – kah – LIAH – ra-ki-ah)
Scientific Name: Merluccius merluccius
About this Animal: Commonly known as 'hake' in English, the Mediterranean sea is home to bakaliaros - a fierce, carnivorous creature with a large body and razor-sharp teeth. Despite its imposing stature underwater, it remains highly sought after for its pliable flesh on Greek fish markets.
How You Can Enjoy It: This fish makes for a savory soup, but can also be grilled, fried or roasted with potatoes, tomato and garlic for an unforgettable meal.