People often ask me if being vegan in Greece is difficult as the common perception is that all of the famous Greek dishes contain either meat or cheese: moussaka, pastitsio, Greek salad and souvlaki.
My answer is that it is actually quite easy as Greeks also have several naturally vegan dishes that are very, very tasty. In case you are planning a trip to this stunning country and want to stick to your vegan diet, make sure to ask for*: a delicious dip made from yellow split-peas called “fava”, roast beetroot with garlic sauce “skordalia”, stuffed peppers and tomatoes “gemista”, sautéed Greek wild greens – “horta”, giant baked beans “gigatnes plaki”, roasted vegetables – “briam”, a traditional Greek dessert – “halva”, rice stuffed wine leaves “dolmades” and today’s recipe known as “aubergine imam” or “imam bayildi”. It is basically a vegetarian stuffed aubergine dish. You should be able to find all of the above in every decent Greek taverna so you won’t go hungry.
As always, there are exceptions to every rule. On our recent greek ferry trip from Italy to Greece, nearly the entire food on offer contained some sort of meat. When I asked if there is anything vegetarian (I think ‘vegan’ would blow their mind…) apart from pasta with bland tomato sauce, I was shown a tray of green beans in tomato sauce. Upon closer inspection, however, it turned out that the said dish contains pieces of meat. When I pointed it out, the ‘chef ‘ got very cross with me and slammed my only option (a plate of pasta with plain tomato sauce) in front of me in anger. I think he is yet to discover the wonders of eating vegetables on a regular basis.
Today’s dish is one of these naturally vegan dishes, which would make any vegetarian or vegan travelling on my greek ferry sing with joy – aubergine imam. As far as I know, even though Greeks consider this dish theirs, it originates from Turkey where it is known under the name of “imam bayildi”. As legend has it, its Turkish name (which means “priest fainted”) derives from a tale of a Turkish priest who nearly fainted with pleasure at the delicious flavour of this dish.
PS: If you make my Imam bayildi, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram as @lazycatkitchen and use the #lazycatkitchen hashtag. I love seeing your takes on my recipes!