This lovely dish is very popular in Greece, as well as in Greek restaurants all over the world. While souvlaki is sometimes made with chicken or even swordfish in American-Greek restaurants, it is usually prepared with pork in Greece. Chicken is also good though, or you could consider lamb. Souvlaki consists of pieces of meat, and perhaps vegetables too, which are grilled on skewers. The word ‘souvlaki’ comes from the Greek word ‘souvla’ which means skewer, so you can see how these got their name. The souvlaki can be served on the skewers or in pita bread, perhaps along with fried potatoes and tzatziki, which is a tangy yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, and onion sauce.
This History of Souvlaki
There were excavations in Akrotiri, which is on the Greek island of Santorini, which revealed firedogs. These are stone or metal items which hold skewers above a fire, and the ones they found dated back to before the 17th century BC, so about 3500 years ago. They had lines of small openings in the base to circulate oxygen around the coals and keep them burning. Ancient Greeks used souvlaki trays which were ceramic pans, but we are not sure whether these would have held hot coals or been placed directly over a fire pit.
How to Make This Dish
Souvlaki is very simple to make, and you will need some thick boneless pork chops which you can cut into cubes. These are then marinated in a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice, oil, garlic, and oregano. If you can get fresh oregano that will yield a nicer result so use that instead of dried if you can. The pork will need to marinate in this mixture for at least a few hours, but if you plan to make souvlaki a day in advance then marinate it for longer and you will agree the wonderful flavor makes this worth doing.
Once the marinating time is up, you can discard the marinade, since you will not be using it again. The pork can be threaded on to metal skewers. If you want to use bamboo ones that is also fine, but ensure you soak them in cold water for at least 30 minutes before cooking the kabobs, else they might catch fire on the barbeque. Alternate the pork cubes with onion if you want. Yellow onion is fine, but white would also work. You do not have to put onion in between all the pork cubes, just a few on each kabob is fine. Have the meat cubes pressed quite close together so the kabobs do not spin on the barbeque.
How Long to Cook Souvlaki
They will take about 20 or 25 minutes to cook fully on the barbeque, depending on the size of the pork cubes and the exact heat of your barbeque. Once the kabobs are golden brown all over they are probably done. You can cut into one pork cube if you wish, to check. Thread an extra one on to one of the kabob if you want, so you can check that one cube without making one of the kabobs smaller. These are best served hot from the barbeque, and possible side dishes include white rice, tzatziki or a similar yogurt dressing, and perhaps salad ingredients like iceberg lettuce and cucumber.
- 4 thick boneless pork chops
- 1 chopped yellow onion
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano or 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- 2 finely minced garlic cloves
- Cut the chops into 1 ½ inch cubes and put them in a Ziploc bag.
- Combine the oregano, lemon, vinegar, oil, and garlic to make the marinade.
- Pour the marinade into the Ziploc bag with the pork, squeeze the air out, and seal the bag.
- Marinate in the refrigerator for 24 hours if possible, or a minimum of 6 hours.
- Preheat the barbeque to medium-hot, and bring the pork mixture to room temperatures.
- Thread the pork on to metal skewers, alternating every few pieces with a chunk of onion.
- Put the kabobs on the barbeque.
- Cook them, rotating often, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until evenly browned and cooked through.
Alternative cubes of pork with slices of onion, these Greek kabobs, or souvlaki as they are also known, are marinated in a lovely garlic and lemon mixture before being barbequed. The photo shows what they will look like about halfway through the cooking time, and you can see the pork changing from pink to golden brown. These are typically Greek and the flavor is aromatic and very special. Serve these lovely Greek kabobs with pita bread or salad, as well as a tangy yogurt dressing like tzatziki or similar. Souvlaki is one of the tastiest Greek dishes you can make on the barbeque.
Photo Credit: Images credited to © Serghei Starus through Dreamstime.com free license
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