Euboea island: Greece’s unknown gastronomic destination

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Euboea is located near Athens but how much we know about its gastronomic tradition?
Having born and lived for a long time in Chalkida, the main city of the island, I would like to be your guide through this article to unexplored paths of the local cuisine as I learned from my family.
Euboea is the second larger island in Greece but its proximity to mainland as well as the two bridges that make easy the access by car confuse many people who find hard to believe that it’s actually an island.
On the other hand, there are many visitors from Athens and its surroundings who have tasted fresh fish, seafood and ouzo in Chalkida and other places in a beachfront restaurant (most known as ouzeri).
Moreover, it is possible, some of you who read this article to have tasted lamb chops in the taverns in the mountain Dirfy as well as fresh fried loukoumades with honey and nuts or the traditional “tiganopsomo” (fried bread).
However, Euboea’s cuisine still holds so many secrets as the island has a long history dated back to the ancient Greece where it was well knowned for its vineyards, the finest quality wines as well as its vegetable, cereals and dairy production.

The first fruit preserves
The first kind of fruit preserves has been made in Euboea which they called them “retsilia”.
“Retsilia” was made of grape must and big yellow squash (in Euboa we called it “lira”). The grape must was used instead of sugar which was unknown ingredient to Ancient Greeks (long before 13th century AD)
Naturally, the local cuisine has changed through the centuries and it was influenced by many cultures as the island conquered by Romans, Ottomans, Venetians and a part of it was populated by Arvanites.
But the major influence in Euboea cuisine came from Greek refugees from Asia Minor coasts at early 20th century, who settled in the North and Central Euboea bringing with them the rich gastronomic tradition of our nation.

From grape must to oil olive and wheat
The tradition of local cuisine is full of products as oil olive, wine, grape must, Greek yogurt, feta cheese and a variety of white cheese, pies, sausages and many others.
Fish and seafood, who are caught in Euboean gulf is also characterizing local gastronomy and they are very popular for their delicacy.

My beloved tiganopsomo (fried bread)
The most popular food for kids and grownups is tiganopsomo (fried bread).
It is called as that because it is made of bread dough filled with local white cheese and cooked in a pan full of olive oil.
Usually, we fill the tiganopsomo with “ksinotyri” (sour white cheese) which is made from goat cheese and a cooking powder called ksyno (sour).
“Katsamaki” for breakfast
It is another traditional dish which is not very popular in nowadays. It is called “katsamaki” and was a porridge made of cornflour, water and olive oil.
My grandmother used to cook it in the morning as it was a very nutritional meal ideal to begin your day if you were a farmer.
“Pantremena” (Married): The traditional festive cuisine of Euboea.
“Pantremena” was usually served in weddings and religious celebrations.
Their main ingredient is legumes  (in Euboea we called “manestra”).
However, It is tradition in weddings to serve spaghetti with mizithra cheese and poured with hot butter or olive oil. Traditionally, they were served with goat stewed.
Also, another festive meal is the one that we usually cook in the day after Christmas. We called it “selinato” and it’s pork fricassee with celery and avgolemono sauce.
There are so many other dishes and traditional meals that I could write about for Euboean cuisine that I could fill in pages after pages. I hope at least to whet your appetite!

*Panagiota Sourtzi is a journalist

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