Φλογερες, my first Greek word.
I went to a Greek restaurant (probably the only one in Wuhan) for dinner last night. There weren’t many diners, even on a Friday night. The lady behind the bar (I later found out that she was the co-owner) looked at my order and asked me if I had been to Greece, perhaps because most of what I ordered were the more traditional Greek dishes. I told her that I had been to Athens for an academic conference a few years ago, and I went to Santorini as a side trip.
This opened up a series of interesting conversations. It turns out that the lady is a Wuhan local, but her husband (co-owner and chef) is from Thessaloniki in Greece. In 2016, the couple opened this Greek restaurant in Wuhan, trying their best to restore the authentic taste of the chef’s hometown using local ingredients (with some necessary compromises and substitutes). The lady has lived in Greece for a few years and regretted hearing that I’ve only been to the two most touristy and commercialized places in Greece. Yeah, I agreed, but I had no time to visit other Greek cities, but I will go back to Greece in the future, with Mr. J! We then continued to chat about other random topics. I said, it’s so rare to find “non-mainstream” cuisine, like Greek food, in Wuhan. The lady said that many Greek dishes don’t cater to the local taste, and people are like this – no matter how much you try to convince them that a dish is authentic, if they are not accustomed to that particular taste, they will be unable to appreciate it. Therefore, there is no point forcing someone to like a type of food – people who like it will come naturally. She then told me that there are only maybe two or three Greeks in Wuhan (TWO OR THREE!) but in fact, I thought that one is already quite rare. You’ve gotta have a lot of luck to meet another Greek!
While paying the bill, I asked the chef to tell me the name of the dish that looked like spring rolls. He explained that the stuffing in these rolls contained smoked turkey ham, a Bechamel-based sauce, and feta cheese, all wrapped in thin filo pastry, and the baked product is crispy and flavorful (and heavenly)! This reminded me of the spinach pie that I ate with TK in Greece – spanakopita, oh my goodness. Although it was just a snack, it was an unforgettable delicacy that lingered in my heart. According to the lady, they don’t sell the spinach pie at the restaurant because locals don’t like the taste, and to that I can only say…y’all are missing out, people. The chef later taught me how to make spinach pie, and the procedure is actually rather complicated but…maybe one day I will try it 😉
And yes, we still haven’t gotten to the name of the spring rolls. The chef continued and said that the rolls are shaped like small, long flutes, so they are called Φλογερες – flogeres, little cheese flutes, and he taught me how to pronounce it in Greek (the “g” is pronounced like “ye”). When I pointed out some Greek letters that I recognized, the chef was quite surprised, but I replied that I studied science and in math and physics, we often use Greek letters as variables, so I was no stranger to them. (Side note: while chatting with the chef, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t spoken English for a long time…)
Continuing on, the chef said that he likes to visit small and medium-sized cities in China because in these places, he can truly experience the daily life of the local people. For example, he particularly enjoyed his visit to Changde in Hunan, as the city was unpretentious and the people were sincere. There are a lot of other details in our chat during this serendipitous encounter, too many to note here. But wow, it’s so rare (saying this for the third time) meeting such lovely people, and I felt that I could have kept on chatting with them for hours, sharing fun travel stories, joys of life, and our love for food! One day in the future, let’s organize a group trip to Greece and see Corinth, Marathon, and of course Thessaloniki, hehe~
Φλογερες, or flogeres – cheese flutes stuffed with smoked turkey ham, Bechamel-based white sauce, and feta cheese, at Aegean Blue Greek Restaurant, Wuhan, China.