My first meal in Athens was recommended by the owner of the traditional Greek grill house where we had gone for a late dinner. The gentlemen had suggested we try the souvlaki platter and/or gyros. “Never ignore food suggestions from a local” is a mantra I live by. So we went ahead and ordered the souvlaki, gyros and some extras to ensure that we overindulge! The gentleman had been right all along. The souvlaki and gyros were a revelation to the tastebuds!
Reminiscent of the traditional kebab eaten in India – and part of Middle Eastern cuisine – the souvlaki is seasoned, bite-sized pieces of meat grilled on a skewer and served with pita, garnishes, salad and fried potatoes. Some servings include a helping of the tzatziki too. Considered a popular fast food by the locals, there seems to be a souvlaki outlet in every other lane of Athens. You will probably not go wrong at most of these places but I will vouch for the Tasty Corner on Chiou Street. Overlooking a churchyard, this is a friendly joint with a semi-open kitchen.
Coming back to the present, writing about a place makes me crave the food – as always! – so I did some research on souvlaki. And imagine my surprise when I realised this is one dish that is a smooth ride for a kitchen novice like me!
No accidents and no goof up – unless you call ‘less salt’ or ‘more salt’ goofups. That is a matter of personal taste that I cannot help! #shrugs
Time: 30 minutes
Boneless chicken/chicken breast (cubed) – 1kg
Olive oil – 2 tablespoons (more to cook)
Lemon juice – 4 tablespoons
Garlic cloves (minced) – 3
Capsicum (diced) – 1 (optional)
Onion (diced) – 1 (optional)
Oregano – 2 tablespoon
Black pepper powder – 1 tablespoon
Salt to taste
Skewers (to grill/fry)
Place the chicken pieces in a glass bowl. In a smaller bowl, prepare the marinade by mixing the olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, oregano, black pepper powder and salt.
Pour this marinade on the chicken pieces, mix well and set aside for anytime between three hours to overnight.
Rub the diced vegetables with salt and pepper.
To cook, thread the chicken pieces into skewers. I alternated a piece of chicken with a piece of capsicum, threading 5 pieces of chicken and 4/5 pieces of capsicum and onion into each skewer. You can add more vegetables or use only chicken. If using only chicken, you could easily thread up to 8 pieces on a single skewer.
Heat a flat pan/skillet. Brush the pan with some olive oil. Place 2-3 skewers on the heated pan and cook the chicken on both sides till they are golden brown and cooked through.
Serve piping hot with some salad and tzatziki dip.
You can also fashion it into a roll by wrapping the souvlaki in pita bread, seasoning with some salt, pepper and tzatziki.
* If you are using bamboo skewers, then do soak them in water, preferably overnight or at least for 3 hours.
Photos: Gautam Chakravarty