I’ve been getting chubby in Mani for over a week now. Like other places in Greece, Mani has its own food specialties.
Bonus: Watch a video of a Mani Food Festival where yiayias cooked traditional local foods.
In the meantime, I’ll share a few of my favorites I’ve encountered.
Side note: Mani is the middle peninsula of the three that stretch southward from the Peloponnese into the Mediterranean Sea.
1. Lalagia (La-LA-gia)
These are the donuts of the Peloponnese peninsula. Its crunchy like a breadstick, yet light at the same time. The trick to get them so light is putting olive oil in the batter. After the dough has risen, they are fried up and then eaten only after they’ve cooled. They’re sold in all of the bakeries and are enjoyed for many days. These can be made savory or sweet.
2. Sfella (SFELL-a)
Greeks love their cheeses! Sfella is a semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese that has a similar taste to feta, but is more yellow and drier. It also has very small holes that form during fermentation. We ate it sliced as a mezze and shredded in a pasta dish. (Incidentally, the shredded cheese in that dish was browned so it had a toasted flavor). Because of its saltiness, it would also be fantastic with vegetables and soups.
3. Singlino (SIG-lin-o)
This one is my favorite and I promise it will give meat-eaters a food orgasm as well. It’s basically salty and smoky ham. The pork is salted to dry and then smoked for many hours. Maniots cut the meat in small pieces and serve it as a mezze or add it to other dishes. We had it with stewed chickpeas as well as mezze. I prefer to eat it as mezze because the smoky flavor is most prominent. I felt the smoky flavor in the chickpea dish was too tame.
4. Orange Salad
As our Maniot friend explained, there are always olives and oranges available in Mani, so they eat them together in a salad.
(Mani is mountainous and rocky with only about 25% arable land.)
We had an orange salad two ways – one with olives and caper berries/leaves (for extra punch, they also topped the oranges with sea salt); the other with salted cod. This dish works when the oranges are very sweet. I highly preferred the salad with olives and capers. The combination of salty and sweet is irresistible for me.
(Salty and sweet – the same reason I’m addicted to chocolate covered pretzels)
I don’t enjoy the texture of salted cod, so for me, it wasn’t as successful. A salad of oranges and singlino (see above) would absolutely put me over the top!
5. Kalamon Olives (Ka-la-MON)
These you probably know as Kalamata olives. The name-protected Kalamata olives grow in the hot and dry Messenia and Lakonia regions (where Mani is located). Eat them any way you like, and as many as you like cause they are very affordable here.
6. Kagiana (ka-ya-NA)
Simple and delicious, this dish is perfect for do-at-homers. It’s basically an egg scramble with fresh tomato and feta cheese. After you saute the tomato for a few minutes, add the whipped eggs and feta cheese and cook over low heat. I’d eat this at any time of the day, but you’ll see it in tavernas in the appetizer section.
Like all parts of Greece, Maniot foods rely on simple recipes that make use of the local, quality ingredients. Simple yet delicious. What are your favorite Greek foods? What Greek ingredients would you like to incorporate in your home cooking?