In my post about eating in Greece, I failed to mention vegetarian food. That is mainly becaue it was only fairly recently that Greek restaurants realized that vegetarians really didn’t eat meat or meat stock, or … Anyway, times have changed and you can get “orphani” souvlaki, which is a pita wrap with either a yoghurt or mayonnaise sauce, salad and fried potatoes. There will usually be stuffed tomatoes and green peppers on the menu, and these are usually stuffed with rice not meat, but you would do well to check! There is usually a vegetable medley too which may consist of okra, tomatoes, onions and green runner beans.
In Athens and some of the islands there will be one vegetarian restaurant, at least. However there aren’t many and you have to look for them. In Athens there is “Avocado” which opened in 2011, on Nikis Street, which is a very short walk from Syntagma Square. It boasts of being the only one of its kind, serving only vegetarian and vegan food. There is also ImproV in Gazi, at Iakhou 8 and Evmolpidon, and in Kolonaki you can find Rosebud.
In Turkey there seems to be more scope for vegetarians as there are more traditional dishes based on vegetables, such as the rice stuffed artichokes and the vegetable medleys. They also do the Turkish “pizzas,” pide, which can be topped with eggs and cheese for a vegetarian option, or with meat for carnivores. The sigara borek are stuffed with beyaz peynir (white cheese). These are small cigarette-shaped, deep-fried delights; although sometimes they are stuffed with meat – so check! In Greece there are the spincah pies (spanokopita) and cheese pies (tyropita) which can be bought at bakeries and which are similoar to borek.There is also the classic Turkish dish – Imam Bayeldi (the priest has fainted) which is stuffed aubergine (eggplant), eaten cold or warm.
In both Greece and Turkey there are dozens of cheeses to tempt you, and a cheese platter can be served at most restaurants along with crusty fresh bread and black or green olives. Being a vegetarian is not as restrictive as it was in the past, when I must say, Turkey had an edge over its neighbour Greece in that field.
In Greece yoghurt may be used in home-cooking, in pastitsio sauce, for instance, but in Turkey you are expected to put yogurt on your hot food, on doner kebabs for example. You can get stuffed vine leaves (stuffed with rice, raisins and pine nuts in Turkey and rice and herbs in Grece) and moussaka vegetarian or otherwise, is claimed as a national dish by both countries.
There are of course, pizza joints in both countries and you can ask for whatever toppings you want and have them delivered, to take away or to eat at a restaurant.
These days vegetarians are at least understood in Greece, and are welcome in all establishments. In Turkey there are always vegetarian dishes on the menu!
Kalo orexi (Greek) or Afiyet olsun (Turkish)!