• Thu. Jun 13th, 2024


Worldwide Gastronomy Habits & Trends

Meze, what does it mean? The origin of the word and the difference between countries

Traditional Meze

To begin with, you go to the restaurant and need only something to drink. But you crave a little dish such as tapas, to accompany your beer. In Greece, the people call it meze. It is granted that the waiter will bring you a small portion of food alongside your alcoholic beverage. Or meze can be used as a little dish before the main dishes come. The small taverns in Greece do that and they are excellent. In fact, there is a wide range of meze in Greece and other countries.

So, I am ready to show you the mezedes (plural).

The origin of the meze

Generally, the meze is a small dish or appetizer for alcohol. The word originates from the Persian masse, which means taste. Also, you can see some different names for it such as mezedakia and mezekiklia  Basically, it is very usual especially in Greece and Middle Eastern countries such as Turkey, Syria, Lebanon and Iran. Particularly, in Greece the locals accompany ouzo, tsipouro, wine, retsina and beer. The most ordinary appetizers are olives and various salads, such as cheesesalad and taramosalata. Most of them are salty on purpose, because that’s how the customers will want to drink more alcohol.

As noted before they serve mezedes in Greek restaurants as well as specialised taverns, the mezedopolies. This kind of shop serves only ouzo, tsipouro or other alcohol with the mezedes. Usually, they use a small plate for serving. You can use either a toothpick or a fork to facilitate the gripping. It is also important to test them with bread. Supposedly you order many small dishes, they call it variety.

In the Middle East, alcohol is not very ordinary. Subsequently, most people choose juices or soda instead of an alcoholic drink. In the Balkans, they accompany meze with raki, arak, ouzo, Aragh Sagi and mastika. Additionally, Cyprus Brandy is one of the popular drinks to suit meze, thus some of them are ideally served with lager or wine.

List of Greek Meze


  • Feta
  • Yellow Cheese
  • Saganaki


  • Tzatziki
  • Cheesesalad
  • Taramosalata
  • Eggplant Salad
  • Russian


  • Sardine
  • Smoked Fish
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Octopus
  • Shrimp


  • Salami
  • Meatballs
  • Soutzoukia
  • Sausage
  • Pastrami

All above can be served with different ingredients:

  1. Olives
  2. Beans
  3. Pickles
  4. Tomatoes
  5. Cucumber

Other countries

In Palestine Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Cyprus, meze is very common. You can find vegetarian, meat or fish mezes.  There is a similarity in the pattern to the dishes of Greece: often olives, tahini, salad and yoghurt will be escorted with vegetables and eggs. Afterwards, they serve small meat or fish dishes and finally come the main dishes, for example whole fish or meat stews and grills. Even some restaurants have their specialities, but all of them contain the same set. Moreover, the dishes vary with the seasons. For instance, in late autumn, snails are a top choice. You had better share the small meals with your friends, because you can not sometimes finish them by yourself.

In Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Montenegro they serve hard or creamy cheeses, kajmak  (clotted cream) or smetana cream, salami, ham and various types  of “suho/suvo meso” (pork or beef),  kulen (paprika  flavoured with sausage),  bacon, ajvar. The Muslims have an alternative. Instead of eating meze with pork, choose  sudzuk (dry, spicy sausage) and the pasturma.In Albania, meze consists of prosciutto ham, salami and cheese alongside roasted peppers or green olives. Another country is Bulgaria, which serves spicy sausages, soujouk and sirene (white cheese). One famous Bulgarian appetizer is the Shopska salad. It is made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onion, peppers and sirene. In the end, Romanian meze comprises of zacusa, cheeses and salamis.

To sum up, these were the best variety of meze in Greece and other countries, Many people prefer them with an alcoholic drink rather than buying a whole meal. They are also cheap, but this depends on the region exclusively. You may find similar small dishes with different prices, especially in the centre of Athens. Although, whatever you order, you are going to be very satisfied. The other countries have also many quality platters and especially in Turkey, meze contains a lot of spices. Whichever country you visit, you should take alcohol with the company of meze and will not regret it!

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