Annie Bananie en Europe

A blog about travel, life, and everyday tidbits

Tag Archives: greek

My stories 07: My first Greek word

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.

Memories of Santorini, Greece

I haven’t written a proper travel-related post in a while and that’s because I don’t travel as much as I did when I was living in Europe anymore (COVID aside). The other reason is I don’t have as much free time as I did when I was a grad student. However, there are hundreds of GBs of photos in my hard-drive that remind me of how much I enjoyed travelling without the burdens of having to pay a mortgage, heh.

There was one destination that I really wanted to write about and that was Greece. Even though I don’t go as in-depth about each destination as I did during my early blogging days, I still want to write about Greece, especially Santorini. In September 2017, I attended the European Society of Biomaterials conference in Athens, but dropped by Santorini for two days prior to the conference. It was one of those trips that from time to time would just pop up in my mind, not because of how amazing the scenery was – and it was amazing. The main reason I enjoyed this trip so much was because of my companion, TK, who I feel like is a younger version of me with very similar personalities. We understood each other very well and our styles of travel were so complementary that it just felt super comfortable being around her. We could both be super touristy and take a million photos in front of landmarks, or we could both just sit and write for an hour without talking to each other and be totally fine with it. I was so glad to have found the perfect travel buddy, and I miss her loads!

TK and I stayed in Fira on the island of Santorini during our stay and took the bus that brought us around to different villages and points of interest on the island. The main destination was of course Oia, which was famous for its sunset. This is Oia viewed from a distance, with its iconic white architecture dotted with pastel-coloured buildings.

A closer look at Oia, this being one of those postcard points of view. The church with the three blue domes is a landmark that most tourists visit in Oia and can be seen right in front of us. Heading there next…

…and here it is. Well, one of the three blue domes, with the deep blue Aegean Sea as the backdrop.

As we had almost the entire afternoon in Oia, TK and I took our time wandering around the narrow streets and alleys, getting lost more than just once or twice. But every corner you turn offers you a new view, whether it’s of the sea or the local residential area or a new landmark of some sort. We tried to get “off the beaten path” but every path on Oia seemed to be the beaten path…!

Lunch! Actually we had lunch in Fira before we headed to Oia that day, at a restaurant called “Salt and Pepper” that TK found before we arrived. The lady that runs the restaurant was so friendly and talkative! She told us about Santorini from the point of view of a local and introduced us to the food at her restaurant. I ordered the shrimp saganaki while TK got the octopus dish. Delicious, but TK’s portion was a bit small. Thankfully mine came with six gigantic shrimp that we were able to share between us!

Dessert was on the house and the lady even wrote down its name to teach us how to pronounce it in Greek. Home-made “ekmek kataifi”, a sweet three-layered pudding. Lovely end to our lunch!

In Oia, we definitely had to go join the hype and see the sunset. There were a few viewpoints where the sunset could be best seen, and we went about an hour and a half earlier than the estimated time of the sunset in order to secure a place to sit – and that was very necessary (and probably the most touristy thing we did during the trip 😛 )! Counting down now…

People kept arriving and soon the small area was filled with sunset-watchers. The sun has almost completely disappeared by 5:50 pm, and to be completely honest I wasn’t THAT impressed with this particular sunset experience and definitely thought that it was overhyped. The one that I saw in Athens several days later, on top of Mount Lycabettus, was much more memorable.

People getting ready to leave after the sunset, and I’m sure there was a dinner rush right here. Again, luckily we came early to get the best view!

Post-sunset photo of TK and me! I definitely did not know where to look in the camera… @_@

We stayed in Oia for a bit longer after the sunset because we wanted to see it lit up in the evening, and it looked gorgeous! I think Santorini would have been a great place for a honeymoon, but if I were to choose, I would stay in one of the less touristy villages on the island in a villa with a pool hanging on a cliff – now that’d be the utmost luxury! Still hope I can do that one day with J in the future 😉

Pre-departure lunch on the next day, kebab!! Ahh this was so yummy and perhaps one of the best kebabs I’ve ever had! But after this it was time to fly to Athens for the conference. Bye bye Santorini!

Sunset from Mount Lycabettus

Sometimes a city doesn’t have to be super glamorous or impressive to earn a ★ on my travel checklist – perhaps a simple yet stunning sunset will do, and that was the case with Athens. It was a fulfilling week in the Greek capital with the annual European Society of Biomaterials conference, and certainly the most memorable part, aside from the conference itself and my amazing companion, was the sunset on Mount Lycabettus tonight, the highest point in Athens. I want to say that all sunsets are beautiful, but some are more beautiful than others. To expect clouds to add some more colours at this time of the year might be wishful thinking, but I gotta say – sorry Santorini, you have nothing on Lycabettus. It was a magical dusk, not a moment too late to marvel at God’s spectacular creations. The cradle of western civilization, the birthplace of philosophy, democracy, the Olympics, and more – good night, Athens.

Sunset from Mount Lycabettus, the highest point in Athens, on September 7, 2017.

Summerlicious @ Ouzeri

My sister and I recently started a new blog – check it out! We’ll be blogging about anything and everything related to fun things we do, including outings, food adventures, random tidbits at home, and so much more. Last week, I added a post about our first Summerlicious experience. I thought I’d “steal” the post from that blog and share it here with you 😉

When I came back to Toronto in January from my 3-year study period in Europe, Sherry and I decided that we would do all sorts of fun things in Toronto (before I leave again, probably, possibly, eventually), including all the food festivals. Taste of Lawrence (we actually missed that 😦 ), Taste of Asia, Night It Up, Waterfront Festival, Rib Fest, Taste of Toronto…you name it!

Of course, we wouldn’t miss Summerlicious, an annual event involving over 200 restaurants all over Toronto. We began planning about a month ago, looking through the list of restaurants and trying to decide which type of cuisine we wanted to try. After much debate and a lot of menu-reading, we settled on GREEK FOOD, and what better place to experience it than in Toronto’s very own Greektown on the Danforth? Sherry has been wanting to try Greek food for a long while anyway but never got the chance, alas we picked Ouzeri as the restaurant for our very first experience with Greek cuisine together.

The sis is lookin’ pretty but also pretty hungry. And I was quite hungry as well. I actually didn’t expect the portions to be very filling for Summerlicious (after a previous Winterlicious experience) but I was very surprised with the portions at Ouzeri. With the arrival of our first appetizer we both gasped – that was A LOT of dip and A LOT of pita bread! Seems like we didn’t even have to order the extra appetizer…

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