Saturday, 13 July 2013

Yiros (Γύρος)

"That's a lot of meat," my husband remarked as we waited for our yiros to be made. "Will they go through it in one night?" It was about 8pm on a weekday earlier this month.

Ya! souvlatzidiko, Hania centre
Of course they will go through all that meat in one night. Souvlaki (or yiro, the terms are often used interchangeably) are incredibly popular these days for so many reasons. Souvlaki is a cheap meal - in fact, it has never been as cheap as it is now, all to do with the crisis, of course. The seating areas at souvlaki shops are always crowded, but that tells only half the story - the delivery bikes don't stop running after a certain hour: most of the business conducted by souvlatzidika is done over the phone, not in the shop.

Yiros may be a cheap meal, but it is a filling meal, containing your meat (pork, chicken or beef), carbs (fried potatoes and pita bread) and salad vegetables (tomatoes and onions, lettuce on demand), all topped with a dollop of dairy (strained yoghurt). In other words, it's a complete meal. All that's missing is dessert; on a hot summer's night, you'll probably round off your souvlaki dinner with watermelon to cleanse the palate.

But yiros is more than just a meal. Yiros makes you feel good - it's the equivalent of an adult version of a happy meal, which is eaten by all age groups, making an outing to a souvlatzidiko the perfect family mid-week jaunt. Going for out a yiros is a psychologically uplifting experience. It places you straight in the thick of the crowds, where you will be seen; in a small town, you will bump into people along the way, all of whom are going there for the same purpose, to get themselves a souvlaki.

doner kebab thessaloniki
Souvlatzidiko in Hania (left) and Thessaloniki (right) - yiros is a quintessential Greek meal that knows no boundaries

If you want to see where the young people are in town, look towards a souvlatzidiko, and you will find them both behind and in front of the counter, jamming themselves together to make room for everyone in the limited seating spaces available at such places. And if you don't eat meat, no worries: souvlatzidika have moved along with the modern times - there are vegetarian options available too. The easiest one of its kind is simply to omit the meat, but there are now places offering vegetarian bifteki (burger patties) made with zucchini or chickpeas.

Most people go to a souvlatzidiko with their παρέα, but you will see a loner here and there, snacking on a tasty pita wrap. Even that person is not alone - the souvlatzidiko in our times has become a meeting place and no wonder - yiro can work out cheaper than a drink at a cafe. What's more, yiro is a democratic choice in food - a yiro is a yiro is a yiro, and everyone eats the same thing from a souvlatzidiko - only the meat choice may be different (you can choose among pork, beef and chicken - rarely lamb though in Hania as our lamb meat is not appropriate for this kind of cooking), but the difference in price is not much more than 30 eurocents. Yiro is the most popular Greek junk food - and it's not even junk, if you consider that it's a completely transparent meal.

Vantes souvlaki, Gogoni St
So cheers to yiro for being very cheap, somewhat healthy, highly democratic, very transparent, psychologically uplifting, and entertainingly social. And most of all, because it tastes so good.

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