My Big Fat Greek Salad

We don’t know much about Greek food except maybe for olive oil, laurel leaves, and lamb.

But there’s probably more to the cuisine than that. Enter Cyma restaurant in Shangri-La Mall, where my family ate the other night–without me. Haha!

But they brought me some takeaway, and it was a feast. Ate this while watching “I Love You Beth Cooper” with my brother, which is entertaining on some level (the movie, not my brother).

High school and cheerleading are certainly glamorized by Hollywood. And doesn’t Hayden Penettiere look a bit like that ‘dancing baby’ screensaver? Except she’s pretty.

Back to the food. Here’s what I ate.

Roka Salata (Cyma Original) – P330

This salata (salad) is made with fresh arugula (known also as “rocket” hence the salad name Roka), chopped romaine lettuce, candied walnuts, sun dried tomatoes, and it’s topped with Parmesan cheese and traditional Greek vinaigrette, which usually has more oil than vinegar.

It tasted sort of like a milder version of an Asian salad, only with a bit more of that nutty and lemony flavor because of the walnuts and the vinaigrette. Considering this was sitting in the fridge for four hours and the greens were soaked and wilting from the acidity of the vinegar, it still tasted pretty good.

Pastitsio (Baked Macaroni) – P230

In the strictest sense of the word, this is not macaroni. This is penne smothered in a savory meat sauce (and it is very meaty) topped with Greek Bechamel (which is a cream sauce widely used in a variety of pastas. It’s also used in the Greek national dish called Moussaka, which is essentially layered meat doused in bechamel).

Greek pasta – called “zymarika” – are usually home made and are referred to collectively as “makaronia.” Which probably explains why it’s called a baked macaroni on the menu.

This tasted exactly like a lasagna, only with less cheese and more creamy buttery bechamel. There are certain tastes that have worldwide appeal (like pancakes) and this is probably why pastistsio is one of the favorite dishes in Greece.

Hirine Brizola (Grilled Pork Chops) – P450

These are 3/4 inch thick, tender, bone-in pork chops served with eithe rice-stuffed peppers or Greek roasted potatoes. Now, second only to grilled lamb, pork chops are a “big favorite” in Greece. Which makes you wonder whether there is anything Greeks don’t like eating. Oh, maybe raw pork chops.

Anyway, the pork chops were sweet – cloyingly so. And I disliked it, because it tasted sort of like it was marinated in lemon and sugar. I mean, Filipinos love that sour-sweet-salty thing, but it just didn’t work for me. Points to the chops for being tender, though.

Last, but not least:

Greek roasted potatoes – comes with every meaty main dish, each costing from P350 to P2,500 (for a slow roasted leg of lamb)

So what makes a roasted potato (patate) Greek? Probably the Greek oregano or “rigani.” All else is just salt, feta or parmesan cheese, lemon, extra virgin olive oil, pepper, garlic, and a 335 degree oven that will blast these carbohydrate-rich babies to perfection.

The potatoes, as you can see are thick (like an extremely fat man’s thumb) – even thicker than Belgian fries. Sometimes they are cooked in broth before being baked. There are hundreds of Greek dishes that use potatoes as the main ingredient, and it’s funny considering the crop was only reportedly introduced to the country circa 1820.

All in all, it was a nice taste of Greek food. Next time, though, I want to try Cyma’s “flaming cheese.” Those Greeks definitely know how to start a party.

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