My favourite snack
That was my first real time in the city of Kalamata, since in a previous one, a long time ago, I only drove through without a stop. Now, I had a couple of days to explore the city, and hopefully enjoy some of its tastes!
Surely, you’ve heard of Kalamata olives and extra-virgin olive oil, but are these all the city has to offer?
Lying in the south of Peloponnese, at one of the most fertile regions in Greece, and having a great culinary tradition, the answer is simply no!
To reach the city center from my place, I had to cross the ‘railway park’, an open-air museum dedicated to railway history. A beautiful space where history through an old station, some steam engines and carriages, and leisure through green areas and playgrounds, mix so nicely.
Kalamata consists of two distinct parts, the northern one where the city center lies, and the southern which stretches along the sea promenade and a long beach. I split my time between the two parts equally, either checking some shops in the north or enjoying the sea in the south.
I’ve planned my stay only for a couple of days but luckily my second one was a Saturday when the central food market is open. So, I could get a good feeling of the local products in one place, at the same time. So, Saturday morning I was there.
At first look, Kalamata’s food market was for sure more interesting than the one in my city, which I got used to visiting every week. That was mainly because of the variety of vendors that you could find here. Except for the stands with fresh fruits and vegetables that were lying on one side of the corridor, there were also shops selling various products on the other side. Among them, there were cheese and meat shops, fish stands, and basically, all you need for your kitchen you could get them in one place.
There was even a taverna near the entrance where you could sit and have something to eat or drink. But what I liked the most was an area with a few vendors selling solely organic products, something that is still missing from Greek farmers’ markets. I couldn’t resist watching the tomatoes and even though the tomato-eating period hasn’t begun for me, I bought a few to enjoy for my lunch. These were my first tomatoes for this year, there were great, juicy, and tasty!
Except for being a place to buy products, a food market is a great spot for socializing, also with other customers, but mainly with the producers. This a perfect way to learn more about the people, the methods they use, and the origin of the products. This time, I had the chance to get to know a cheesemaker who shared with me his story.
Being in a cheese shop in Kalamata, I had surely to buy some local cheese. I asked my guy to cut me a piece of Sfela, a cheese with a PDO status, produced from a mixture of sheep and goat milk. It’s white and has a texture similar to feta, but as I was informed it’s a bit more aggressive in terms of saltiness and sourness.
I left behind the cheese shop and kept strolling through the stands gazing, once right and then directly left, at the different products. At the end of the long corridor, I ended up holding in my hands a big bunch of dried sage, some dried figs, and a bag of a local legume that looks like a small green bean, called rovitsa.
The highlight of my visit though was when I reached a bakery selling Kalamata’s most famous preparation made from dough, the so-called lalagia. These are oval rings of fried dough with a crispy exterior and soft interior. I would call them the Greek taralli since they are made and taste similar to the known Italian counterpart.
Needless to say, lalagia are so tasty and addictive that they served the purpose of my perfect snack for the whole day as well as for my trip back the day after.
At some point, the visit to the market was over and by the time I was back home, it was already lunchtime. And what better for lunch than a very tasty salad with some of the products I brought from the market!
However, something sweet was missing. I found it a few hours later while I was walking along the sea promenade. Diples (coming from the Greek word for ‘fold’) are thin sheets of dough folded, then fried, and served after drizzled with honey and dusted with cinnamon and ground walnuts.