When we think of Greece, we mainly think of its rich and prominent history but little do we know of Greek cuisine, especially in this region – although Greek cuisine is similar to Middle Eastern cuisine.
In Qatar, there are a few Greek restaurants for those who enjoy the Greek cuisine to choose from. But this week, for seven nights from Sunday 25 May to Saturday 31 May 2014, Sharq Village and Spa turns to the Mediterranean for a ‘Greek Goodness’ culinary promotion at their Al Liwan Restaurant.
All the way from Greece, comes Chef Doxis Bekris who will be introducing Qatar to the best and most authentic tastes of Greek cuisine. However, this is not Chef Bekris’ first visit to Qatar. He has been to Qatar at least four times before this visit for something similar to Greek week at Sharq Village & Spa but at Al Dana Restaurant. He said:
This year, we’re doing it at Al Liwan Restaurant in a buffet style, which will take place for a longer time – a week. Knowing the market, trying to introduce Greek food, let’s say it’s something natural for me so I’m sure people will appreciate it.’
Introducing Greek cuisine to foreigners is Chef Bekris’ specialty and being no stranger to the Middle East, introducing his native cuisine is not a difficult task. He said:
I spent some quite time in Dubai, around five years or so, so I’m very familiar with the Middle East with all the food and the culture in general so that helped me all that obviously to understand the likes and dislikes of guests here, and obviously, being Greek is also easy for me to introduce Greek food to this market. It wasn’t that hard and obviously with the invitation of Sharq Village & Spa, it’s a great opportunity to showcase Greek food to this market.
The Mediterranean cuisine makes wide use of olive oil, vegetables and herbs, fish and various meats, including lamb and beef. Important condiments are olives, cheese, eggplant, zucchini and yogurt. Greek desserts are characterised by the dominant use of nuts and honey, using filo pastry. Chef Bekris said:
Greek food is very simple. it doesn’t have very particular techniques and its based on the quality of the raw materials so we base our food or cuisine on high quality products mainly produced in Greece. We import very little things. And if I will say, depending on the area you are in Greece, the focus is if you are in the islands, you would probably have more fish and seafood but if you’re in the mainland, the northern part of Greece, we are very much meat-lovers. We eat a lot of lamb as people in the Middle East do as well and a lot of beef and chicken also. So simplicity is the identity of Greek food – we try simple ingredients, highlight the flavours and the quality…In northern part of Greece, we have more meat as I said. The dishes are more heavy because we have heavy winters. The food is more on the meat side and saucy, which keeps people warm in the winter.’
The Greek cuisine is usually confused or compared with Middle Eastern cuisine especially Lebanese and Turkish cuisines due to the similarities they share in dishes. Chef Bekris won’t argue with that opinion using the Moussaka as an example, he said:
If you take the Moussaka for example, we all will debate where it comes from but in Lebanon they do it in a different way. In Greece, we do it in a different way. The Turkish do it as well in their own way. There are so many dishes that are very similar between these cuisines in those countries. I would say our flavours are not the same but very similar. There are differences even on those same dishes however it makes it easier for me to express the Greek food in a way everybody will like it and where ever I go in the Middle East, people will appreciate it because it’s very close to their flavour as well, and to their regular day-to-day food so yes I would say we’re very much alike but with our own authentic recipes and differences.’
Popular Greek dishes
We have a very nice bean soup like you do here, lentil soup, we call it Fasaloda. Moussaka is another popular dish that is very well known not just in Greece but pretty much every foreign guest knows something about it. Not to forget to mention the Greek Salad which you can find in every menu all over the world. Like you have here the shawarma, we have the chicken Gyros. Even though as I said, they are pretty much similar flavours, they are still very different and yet very traditional as well for us. The greek Souvlaki, which is similar to shish kebab and chicken kebab are very well known for us Greeks, we enjoy them everyday; it’s because they are very simple and everybody likes them.
Chef Bekris has introduced been introducing Greek food to the Middle East for years so what dishes does he choose and how? Speaking in regards of ‘Greek Week’ at Sharq Village and Spa, Chef Bekris explained:
I didn’t make a lot of dishes very familiar to what guests would like to eat here because at the end of the day, I want the guest to realise what Greek food is all about. However, we do have a lot of the dishes that are well-known her – as I mentioned, the Greek Salad, the Moussaka and the gyros – but overall throughout Greek week, we will try to introduce food from different areas and regions from around Greece so guests will have the opportunity to try a little bit of everything, based on the day they visit. So you’ll have days that have more seafood – so tasting the islands of Greece and their very nice fresh fish and seafood variety they have and their different recipes. We have days that focus more on the meat aspect from the northern part of the mainland of Greece. So throughout the week, we’ll choose the best of Greece and we’ll introduce them here.
Today, Al Liwan Restaurant is at its third day of ‘Greek Week’, and according to Chef Bekris, Moussaka has been the biggest hit. He said:
So far no doubt, we ran out/sold out of Moussaka but at the end of the night, pretty much everything was finished but I will say yes Moussaka a must-have and a hit. We had another dish called souljukata. It’s like beef kofta but we make in a very nice tomato sauce with a lot of cumin inside that was very popular as well, people loved it. We had a very nice warm desert, which is like the lokma they do here but it’s deep fried. It’s like a mini donut but we serve them with honey syrup, sugar and cinnamon. This was a must-have. Everyone loved it!
If you’re familiar with Greek food and looking to try something new, try the Mussel Saganaki, Chef Bekris recommends. He said:
It is a very traditional seafood. The names comes from its sauce – spicy tomato sauce with a lot of crumbled feta cheese on top. So we make it with mussel, we make it with shrimps, we make it with monkfish, we make it with different types of seafood. It’s very nice and very traditional in Greece. It’s something people should try!’
Marhaba Picks: Independent and hotel restaurants, offering Greek cuisine in Qatar (in no particular order):
- Mykonos (Greek, Arabian, Mediterranean, V/NV) Intercontinental Doha Hotel, Al Isteqlal Road, Westbay | 4484 4444
- Agora (Greek, Turkish, V/NV) Grand Heritage Hotel, Aspire Zone, Sports City | 4445 5555
- Greek Restaurant (V/NV) Ras Abu Abboud, Al Salata | 7782 9911
- Rocca (Greek, Mediterranean, Moroccan, Spanish, Turkish, Italian, French, V/NV) Grand Hyatt Doha Hotel, West Bay | 4448 1270
- Mr Gyros (Greek, Lebanese, fast food, V/NV) Salwa Road, Al Jazeera Petrol Station | 4444 0033
Author: Ola Diab
Copyright © Marhaba Information Guide. Reproduction of material from Marhaba Information Guide’s book or website without written permission is strictly prohibited. Using Marhaba Information Guide’s material without authorisation constitutes as plagiarism as well as copyright infringement.