On your next trip to Northern Greece, you have to try Pontan food. Greek food is full of rich flavors, spices, and herbs that originate in its diverse history and natural landscapes. In northern Greece, some of the flavors came with the Greeks that migrated from the Caucasus region, Pontos. Pontian cuisine is a celebration of a home that is no longer there, and it is now part of the Greek food scene. You can find it mostly in Northern Greece, close to the original homeland of the Pontian people.
We traveled to Drama in Northern Greece and found a great place to try this mouthwatering food.
Where is Pontos?
Pontos or Pontus is a region located on the southern coast of the Black Sea, in Turkey. It used to belong to Greece, but became part of Turkey in 1923 after the two countries agreed on a population exchange. This didn’t happen without blood and tears, as Pontian Greeks were forced out of their homes and left them behind. Pontian Greeks found themselves in the middle of a turf fight between the Russian and Ottoman empires. Turkey was going through a growing nationalistic movement in the country that led to the Pontic’s persecution and ultimately expulsion and genocide.
Some of the Pontian Greeks that survived settled initially in northern Greece, in places like Thessaloniki, Florina, Drama. With them, they brought delicious food full of unique flavors and tastes.
Exploring Pontian food in Northern Greece
It is hard to spot Pontian food, especially because nowadays it is fully integrated into local Greek food. You can find it either by the name of the taverns that serve it or by what is on the menu. In general, one of the best ways to live the food experience in Greece is the way Greeks serve it. Pontian food is no exception to this rule. Food comes in big portions, served continuously, and is all meant to be shared. You eat it on small plates, tapas-style, so you can try a bit of everything.
While visiting the town of Drama, we tried Pontian food for the first time in a tavern called Ei Kiti.
Ei Kiti is a traditional style tavern, offering a great atmosphere with Greek traditional music playing in the background, and very friendly people. They told us what was on the menu (in Greek, but one of the girls there spoke quite good English), and they were more than happy to share suggestions.
Once ordered, the food started coming beautifully presented. Looking at it, we drooled straight away, at how good it looked. An important note: this is not the lightest food but everything was fresh, delicious, local, and best of all made with love and care.
Pontian food, Ei Kiti Menu
It is easier to find Pontian food in Northern Greece, and your first taste of it should be at Ei Kiti tavern. We started with a fresh winter Greek-style salad made with cabbage, carrots, and green pepper served with olive oil and some fresh homemade Perek (a type of homemade pita bread). You can eat it on its own or with melted cheese inside it’s a taste of heaven. Next, we had delicious Pisia, a kind of traditional dumpling similar to piroshki, filled with goat cheese. Followed by Sarmades or Greek cabbage rolls filled with rice, ground pork, and spices. It kept coming and the portions were quite generous.
We also tried Varenika, a type of handmade fresh pasta, also filled with goat cheese. Then came the meat, first Hartso, delicious chicken pieces served in a tasty nut-based sauce; second, Giaourtlou, luscious pork sausages grilled served in a tomato sauce base, raw thin onion slices on top, yogurt, and Perek at the bottom. These were heavy but super tasty. The meat didn’t stop there. They brought us some juicy Kontosouvli, pork meat grilled on the stick (souvlaki style) served with some chips and some leaves.
We were exploding by this point, but still had some room for a sweet taste of Pontos. As it is typical in some Greek taverns, they offer dessert at the end of the meal. They brought us Spoon Sweets. This sweet is yogurt served with a sour cherry fruit preserve. A perfect ending to an unexpected feast! We found this place by chance and it was worth it!
Travel to Northern Greece
During our trip to Northern Greece, we also tried a Pontian sweet called Otia, a type of fried dough. Very delicious too! Along with the food that you can find in Northern Greece, there are also beautiful landscapes to explore that range from mountain ranges to pristine lakes and rivers.
Although Greece is mostly famous for its islands and beaches, the country has much more to offer and one should explore its rich history, cultural and food landscapes.
We will give you a taste of this in our next article, stay tuned!