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Hummus is not Greek!

During our recent trip to Greece I was continually served Tszatiki (sp?) which I have all the time as a dip with pita bread here in Canada. I was coninually asking for Hummus (hummous) and the Greeks couldn't figure out what I was asking for! Finally, I got some one that spoke English and explained it was a dip made from chickpeas, olive oil and either lemon or lime and they knew what I was talking about. They said it is either Egyptian or Turkish but is never served in Greece unless it is peculiar to one of the islands.
Dean in Canada

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  1. I thought it was Lebanese myself.


    9 Replies
    1. re: Davwud

      and Israeli - Middle Eastern really - I think the only reason Greek restaurants serve it is because it's cheap and a generally a crowd pleaser and it is reminiscent of Mediterranean dips.
      carlitguy - hummus also has tahini - pretty important ingredient - and lime would not be a traditional ingredient - perhaps a little bit of lemon juice. Doesn't mean that lime juice wouldn't taste good and there are so many variations on hummus these days that are tasty, but lime would not be a traditional ingredient - in my house, traditional hummus is chickpeas, tahini, a little olive oil, splash of lemon juice, a couple cloves of garlic, S&P.

      1. re: pescatarian

        Though, the influence of the Ottoman empire in the region of Greece IS strongly felt. Dishes such as tzatziki or moussaka actually have Persian or Arab culinary roots and likely encountered the Greek tradition during Ottoman times. Though the Ottoman political empire dissolved years ago, the effects of the Ottoman culinary empire are still felt in Greek cuisine today.

        1. re: xtal

          Greek Moussaka also has a French roots- the bechamel sauce was brought to Greece from France in the 1920s.

          1. re: phoenikia

            actually you're wrong - french bechamel sauce is actually based on an ancient greek recipe, bessamel. they are basically the same thing but there is evidence of an ancient greek recipe.

            1. re: evaangel

              Most people give credit to Tselementes for bringing bechamel from France to the housewives of Greece, but I suppose some people believe that the ancient Greeks invented Bechamel sauce. You believe what you want to believe, but I'm going to give credit to Tselementes and the French.

              The Tselementes effect on Greek cooking: http://greekfood.about.com/od/discove...




              1. re: phoenikia

                I thought it was an Italian invention—besciamella. At leat's that's what I learned in cooking school.

                1. re: tatamagouche

                  Were you taught by some Italians? ;-)

                  Larousse Gastronomique considers the sauce to be named after the Marquis de Bechamel, but perhaps some Italian authorities believe it is named after someone else, or invented in Italy.

                  Seems appropriate that a rich sauce is named after a rich tax farmer, non ? ;-)

                  Marquis de Bechamel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_de...

                  1. re: phoenikia

                    In fact I was. :) It was 10 years ago so I don't remember the rationale. I'm fully prepared to relearn.

        2. re: pescatarian

          Lime is often used in Egyptian versions of hummous.

      2. Hummus is arabic for chickpea.

        1. Greeks(especially those in Crete and the Cycladic islands) serve something called fava which is basically a garlicky, lemony spread made with either yellow or green split peas (not fava beans), depending on the region. That's probably the closest you'll get to hummous in Greece. I wish they served fava here in Toronto- it's way more addictive than hummous imo!

          1 Reply
          1. re: phoenikia

            I believe the fava dip you speak of is made with yellow-shelled lentils.

          2. Thanks for the revelation. But, aside from now placing more information in my head, I don't really care! I'm not saying that in a negative way, by the way, as I find the history of food fascinating. Its just that while this may be true in greece, hummous is clearly now a part of north american greek tradition (or at least north american greek restaurant tradition), and "authentic" in its own right. Chalk up another intersesting development to globalization

            1 Reply
            1. re: bluedog

              I am with you there. I love hummus and I don't really care if it's Greek or not. If they serve it in Greek restaurants, all the more better.

            2. The best was when a friend of mine (none too chowish) went to an Indian restaurant and nearly came to blows with the owner over why she couldn't get any hummus with her Nan!
              I was a little confused myself when Hummus started showing up at Greek restaurants on the Danforth, but it does fit with the food even if not "authentic".

              3 Replies
              1. re: julesrules

                Thats funny we periodically buy Trader Joe's whole wheat "naan", make some hummus to spread on it.

                1. re: Eat_Nopal

                  Just as bad, I make naan and use it for schwarma. It's so good, though. Home fusion food.

              2. Well, this is all news to me -- I always thought hummus came from Oklahoma, because that's where my Mom's from, and she makes really great hummus! Actually, she learned the recipe from her cousin's Lebanese husband.
                Wichita has such a visible and vibrant Mediterranean/Middle Eastern/Lebanese community (many who have taken over the food service industry in town), that there are many of these "fusion" restaurants that feature hummus and fattoush salad and baklava and schwarma, with some French and Italian thrown in. It's not a bad problem to have. I can almost eat my own weight in pita bread and hummus.

                1. Haha! As I get older, I learn more and more about my culture. I am continually surprised to learn which foods are actually Greek, and which are transplants. This is all, of course, relative to the period of time in which the assessment is made. We all know that the pizza we love in America is usually nothing like pizza in Italy (as well as most "Italian" food, for that matter). So "Pizza" is really American food today, but if you asked your average New Yorker what pizza was a century ago, he/she probably would have no idea. It's a fun idea to explore. My grandparents, for example, came to America between 1915 and 1935, so my idea of Greek food is mostly what they considered authentic based on what memory they had of food from Greece and whatever variations developed in our community based on preference and availability. One of the funniest variations I found out about in my area was the use of olive oil. Most of my family who owned buisnesses and were considered financially well-off never used it, because it was expensive (really, they were cheap), but the working class part of the family always used it, especially if they were cooking for others.

                  Hey, who knows, maybe in 50 years, hummus will be considered Greek, but even if not, I agree that it certainly is Greek-American.

                  1. I had no idea it was being served in Greek restaurants, that's weird.

                    OTOH, I do see some sort of "crossover" type dishes in some Lebanese restaurants. I think this is because of the history beteween Greece and Turkey and the fact that they're so close together, that the Turkish cuisine can spill over into lebanese and greek. For example, AFAIK "baklava" is a Greek dish and is NOT made with pistachios, but it's on the menu at all my local Lebanese restaurants, and is always made with pistachios. And while both cuisines offer stuffed grape leaves, I thought the traditional Greek ones were with meat in them, like the ones I grew up on, but every Lebanese restaurant that has them serves vegetarian ones, with just rice or maybe rice and chickpeas.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: rockandroller1

                      You must not have noticed. I know lots of Greek restaurants in our area (northeast Ohio) have hummus. Yeah, I think the rice "dolmathes" are bland. It's a food that needs meat, IMO. Also, I love Turkish baklava with pistachios. I need to try to make it that way sometime.

                      1. re: madgreek

                        I have never eaten at a good Greek restaurant here so that may be why I haven't noticed. Most of the Greeks here seem to own diners that serve inexpensive and not very tasty food, focusing on breakfast, and then they throw a few greek things onto the menu - for you Chowhounders, if your cheap diner has blue and white wallpaper or pictures and a gyro omelette, you can bet it's owned by Greeks.

                        I mostly get my yearly fill of Greek food at the festivals, which almost all have very good food, and from what I cook at home.

                      2. re: rockandroller1

                        Actually I believe baklava is also Turkish. Phyllo was invented by the Turks and introduced into their territorial holdings during the Ottoman Empire. A lot of what popularly constitutes modern Greek cuisine has little to do with the pre-Ottoman cuisine of Greece. Indeed if you look at the names of a lot of dishes, they are Turkish or Arabic in origin (i.e. moussaka|mussaqa; keftedhes|köfte, even meze is a Turkish word!). As for dolmathes, that might very well be a Greek dish; but given that the name is Turkish, I have my doubts.

                        1. re: JungMann

                          Considering Greece was under Turkish rule for 400 years, it shouldn't be surprising they would have words in their culinary vocabulary that are based on Turkish words. Just because a name has Turkish roots doesn't mean the dish is necessarily any more Turkish or any less Greek.

                          Dolmades (dolmathes) is a Greek word, based on the word Dolma which is the Turkish word for something stuffed. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dolma Dolma can refer to any stuffed vegetable in Turkey, whereas stuffed vegetables would usually be called Yemista in Greece.

                          In Greece, dolmades will almost always mean stuffed grapeleaves. Turks usually refer to their stuffed grapeleaves as sarma or yiaprak, instead of dolmades.

                          1. re: phoenikia

                            Similarly, my Palestinian-Arabic friends make dolmas (and hummus, for that matter), and I have an Egyptian recipe for them. Pretty widespread, apparently.

                            1. re: phoenikia

                              Interesting, as they were referred to as sarmi (plural) where I grew up, the family spoke macedonian as that's what my grandfather was (though my grandmother was Greek).

                              1. re: phoenikia

                                right on. There is a lot of Ottoman culture that crosses over.

                            2. re: rockandroller1

                              In my Syrian family the stuffed grape leaves (yabra'a) always have meat in them....traditionally lamb, but we usually use ground beef. Of course hummus is always on the table too.

                            3. No, it's not Greek, but I had it quite often in Cyprus, on the Greek side of the island.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: Bat Guano

                                Greek Cypriots are much more likely than the whole of the Greek people to embrace what is commonly referred to as "Turkish" cuisine. In Greek, saying that something is Turkish is like saying that it is not very good. The word "Turkish" (in Greek) is commonly uttered with a scowl, and is often used to refer to all Middle-Eastern food.

                                I should'nt generalize, though. Nowadays, Greeks are much more global, and their hatred of the Turks has faded considerably.

                                1. re: madgreek

                                  Well, Greek Cypriots certainly have no particular love for the Turks, but as you state that doesn't seem to prevent them from eating Turkish-derived foods. Food comes first - a fine sense of priorities!

                                2. re: Bat Guano

                                  I certainly hope that while in Cyprus, you tasted what I call The KING of Hummus, which you can get everyday in the heart of Nicosia, Laiki Yitonia, in a restaurant named Fanous. It is absolutely fabulous!!

                                3. Greece has been influenced in myriad ways by the Middle East for thousands of years (and vice versa, of course, at least in ancient times). While specific fashions come and go, what could be more natural than for Greek Americans to assimilate hummus into "Greek" cuisine?

                                  1. Hmm, I never thought hummus was Greek in the first place.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: huiray

                                      hmm, I never thought hummus was NOT Greek. But also Israeli, Lebanese, Egyptian, Turkish, Syrian. Greek restaurants in the UK always have hummus and have done for years.

                                        1. re: Sam Salmon

                                          wow, thanks for this link is opens up eyes :-)

                                        2. re: smartie

                                          Greek restaurants in the UK are usually Cypriot, rather than Greek.

                                          1. re: Harters

                                            true that - maybe hummus is Cypriot (Greek or Turkish?).

                                      1. Speaking of hummus, does anyone pronounce it "hoomas"?
                                        Watching the Barefoot Contessa today and she kept saying hoomas, which doesn't surprise me as she tends to have her own way of pronouncing things let say, special.

                                        3 Replies
                                        1. re: monavano

                                          That's closer to the traditional pronunciation. It should be "Hoo-moose", not "huh-mus"

                                          1. re: ferret

                                            I thought the Barefoot Contessa had the inside skinny on how to pronounce it. I have just never heard it pronounced that way before.
                                            I learned something new every day!

                                            1. re: ferret

                                              Seconded. Arabic words are often difficult to render in English, but hummus is relatively phoenetic. I occasionally see it spelled hoomoos to drive the point home.