Tasting our local food in Athens

Food is memory. How many times has a particular flavour taken us back to a specific moment in the past? To the plate of hot food that mother placed on the table at the end of the school day. To a beautiful place we have visited. Food is emotion. We seek out traditional dishes from our homelands in Athens, from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Turkey. We find them, we taste them, we are overcome with emotion and we suggest you try them too.

Chicken Biryani at Pak Tikka

By Ihtisham Khan 

When we talk about culture, one of the first things that comes to mind is food. So, a Greek friend of mine and I went to Pak Tikka, a Pakistani restaurant in downtown Athens that has been running for the past ten years, to taste a delicious dish and compare it to how it is made in Pakistan. 

Nasim Nassar who served us the chicken biryani and salad, was a very gentle and kind person. My friend and I tasted the dish and we really loved it, and although we were not in Pakistan, the taste was amazing, as we expected. My Greek friend liked the biryani a lot. However she started coughing, because she is not used to spicy food! The place was amazing and beautifully decorated with imagery of Southern Asian culture, like the big murals on the walls outside, which reminded me of my country, Pakistan.

After reading this you will no doubt want to visit the place to taste the delicious food, not only the biryani, but every Pakistani-Indian dish!

Info: Pak Tikka, 5 Sapfous Str., Athens. Tel: 694 683 0667, Fb: @Pak Tikka

Photos by Ihtisham Khan

Mantu at Folia

By Ali Mazher

“Folia” is an Afghan restaurant in Exarchia, Athens. It opened its doors for the first time five years ago. Its owner, Reza Golami, came to Greece 14 years ago. He had never worked in the food industry before “Folia”, but he has tried many jobs – for example he has worked as an interpreter, while studying Computer Science here, in Greece. However he always felt he wanted to do something on his own, to be independent. “I am quite social as a person, so I wanted to interact with other people. I like this a lot”, says Reza.

The dishes people like the most in “Folia” are mantu, kabuli, ashak and of course the falafel. We tasted mantu with a twist. The original recipe contains ground beef, but in “Folia” they cook it with chicken, so that the taste will be more pleasant for people that are not familiar with Afghan cuisine. The mantu was really good, spicy and I really enjoyed the fact that it was made with chicken, I even found it better than the original dish! It was presented in a very nice way on the plate and it was really colourful. 

“Folia”, according to Reza, isn’t a restaurant just for his fellow countrymen, but for everyone. 99% of his customers are Greeks or tourists. “So, I consider “Folia” to be a place where people can share cultures”, he adds. 

As for why he chose that specific neighbourhood to open “Folia”, Reza says he likes it because it is a colourful neighbourhood. Actually this was the first time I visited Exarchia myself, because of “Folia”, and I agreed with him! 

Info: Folia, 9-11 Andrea Metaxa Str., Exarchia, Athens. Tel: 2103803840, Fb: @foliamikri

Photos by Ali Mazher

Beyti Kebab at Mikra Asia

By Mortaza Rahimi

Turkish cuisine has been rated as one of the three greatest cuisines in the world, together with French and Chinese. There are more than 40 different kinds of kebab to sample as well as many spices and flavours. I lived in Turkey for a long time and I really loved local cuisine. So, as soon as I found myself in a big city in a European country, I tried to find the best local Turkish restaurant. Luckily I discovered Mikra Asia, a hidden gem in the streets just off Amerikis Square. It is so famous that people come all the way from Thessaloniki to eat there and take food away with them. Their baklava has traveled to the United States!

I can’t remember the last time I asked a waiter to give my compliments to the chef! I was delighted to find myself in the extraordinary position of having the owner of the place, Eva, who is also the chef, sitting next to me at the table. I tried Mikra Asia‘s most iconic and mouth watering Beyti kebab. It’s ground meat grilled on a skewer, served wrapped in lavash and topped with tomato sauce and yogurt and six other different kinds of sauces, accompanied by grilled pita. I also tried their special kisir salad.

Mikra Asia was Eva’s father’s idea. He had studied Medicine, but when he came to Greece he couldn’t practice his profession, so he had to work in restaurants and finally decided to open his own. “Mikra Asia has been a family business for over 20 years now. It opened its doors in 2000 close to Amerikis Square and three years ago we opened another branch in Pagrati”, says Eva.

When I asked why the name “Mikra Asia” (meaning Asia Minor), Eva’s words made me smile. Her father thought the name would make a good symbol for refugees, no matter where they came from or where they were going to. So anyone coming to his restaurant would find their own Asia Minor, like a home, and that’s what I felt when I first visited Mikra Asia. They left an amazing impression on me! I will be returning to “Mikra Asia” soon. “Aç daha fazlası için” which in Turkish means, “hungry for more”!

Info: Mikra Asia, Thiras & Moshonision, Amerikis Square, Athens. Tel: 210 8644698, Fb: @asiakebap

Photos by Mortaza Rahimi

Kebab at Pars

By Mahdia Hossaini

Dear friends in Athens, 

Have you ever thought of traveling to Iran? Do you like Iranian music? Do you know anything about Iranian cities? Or maybe you consider this to be an expensive trip, so you never thought of planning it? We can suggest an easier and cheaper option. You can go to “Pars” restaurant (Pars was the old name of Iran), which feels like a miniature Iran.

The warm and cozy atmosphere, the amazing smell of saffron, Iranian craftwork on display and polite staff will be the first things you notice there. This restaurant demonstrates Iranian culture to Greek people and this is one of the main reasons for visiting it.

We chose to taste a famous Iranian dish, Kebab koobideh, along with shirazi salad, mast khiar, zeytoon parvardeh and doogh, a drink always served with kebab. Kebab koobideh is made with halal lamb. It was so delicious and juicy, just like in Iran! All you friends of mine, who have been to Iran or who used to live there and have missed the smell of your mother’s or grandmother’s food, you should not miss “Pars!

Rice with saffron, was shiny like gold, zeytoon parvardeh made with olives, pomegranate paste and walnuts, mast khiar, that is like tzatziki without garlic and salad shirazi made with chopped tomatoes, cucumber and onion and dressed with lemon juice and dry mint, were all amazing.  

In the end we tried traditional saffron ice cream. I’m not exaggerating when I say, it smells like heaven! Now, are you ready to travel to Iran? Don’t take any luggage, you don’t need it, because “Pars” is in Chalandri. 

Info: Pars Restaurant, 15 Palaiologou Str, Chalandri. Tel: 210 6817277, Website: persianrestaurant.gr 

Photos by Mortaza Rahimi

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