Ah the good 'ol Souvlaki. Arguably Greece's finest (and most well known) achievement of the past couple of centuries, this sliced meat filled pita blows the minds of everyone that comes to Greece faster than the DC-10 blew its cargo doors. But, as with anything that's food related there are great ways to have it and thoroughly enjoy it, and ways that will make your heart shrivel up and hope the flight home comes 4 days earlier. Worry not though as here's a proper, dare I say gentleman's guide, to souvlaki.
Here's something that is still under debate, and will definitely still be in debate by the time we're all forced to go vegan. Some say that souvlaki should only have pork in it, in order to be authentic, and having souvlaki with any other meat is the equivalent of running around the Parthenon while waving a German flag. I though, together with most people, firmly believe in the idea that everything, including souvlaki, should have a bit of variety in it. So don't hesitate to have souvlaki with chicken, lamb, sausages, burger patties or even turkey or fish for those that feel like lying to themselves about eating something moderately healthy. Just make sure it actually has meat in it. Vegan and vegetarian variations with mushrooms or thin air feel like Brexit. Fun idea until you realize that going ahead with it was wrong from the start.
Conversations about souvlaki garnishes have ruined households, marriages and many friendly family nights. The standard souvlaki garnishes are tomatoes, onions and fries. Any combination of these is guaranteed to please your taste buds, so the top tip here is to never, and I mean never, have other garnishes in your souvlaki other than the ones mentioned. Over the years I've seen such absurdities as lettuce, carrots, cheese or onion rings find their way in perfectly fine souvlaki. The reason many joints offer so many garnishes is because usually they're trying to hide the poor quality of their meat by filling it with all kinds of guff that make you hunt for the meat within your actual meal. So if you see joints with too many garnishes available, just walk away. Your stomach will thank you later.
So you've decided on what you want in your souvlaki but there's still one thing left. The sauce. Some prefer their souvlaki bone dry, but in my opinion a sauce adds a nice extra layer of flavor that you would otherwise miss, but not any kind of sauce will work. As we all know, the staple of the Greek souvlaki is tzatziki, this yogurt, cucumber and garlic sauce that the gods gave to us mere mortals. You can't go wrong with tzatziki on your souvlaki and it goes with pretty much any kind of meat perfectly. But, tzatziki is too heavy for some and as such great alternatives are also plain yogurt with herbs and paprika or red sauce, which is the go to sauce in the beautiful island of Corfu. Big no-nos here are sauces that seem to extravagant like cheese sauces, that are used for hiding bad meat or anything in the neighborhood of BBQ sauce or ketcup. These should be kept for burgers and hot dogs. Mustard though can generally enhance the flavor of your souvlaki so putting it on top of the other sauces can make things a bit more interesting.
And there you have it. With this guide you can rest assured that your next souvlaki experience won't end in tears, curses and a fight with the man behind the cash register. Too much complication in everything, or food in this case, never ends well and most definitely makes the fact that simplicity is the way to go even more obvious. Now go ahead and grab that pita!
What do you think of souvlaki and how do you prefer yours? Share your opinion in the comments!