Of all the culture and tradition that unites Australia and Greece, one enduring passion stands out – the shared love of seafood.
Like Australia, the waters of Greece have long abounded with fresh sea fare and for centuries it’s been a staple of the Greek diet.
So let’s take a dive into the salt waters of seafood and investigate the shared culinary favourite that unites our sea loving nations.
Seafood in Greece
Seafood in Greek culture dates back centuries due to the lengthy coastline this small nation boasts. From sardines to calamari, bass, bream and lobster, seafood has featured heavily in this Mediterranean diet, with a host of traditional recipes derived from Greek culture.
The love of seafood is part tradition and part convenience with historians noting fish was readily available.
Cooks Info explains: “Greece just doesn’t have good pasture land for livestock, so meat was scarce. The Greeks loved fish, but low on the scale of their likes, and thus cheapest, were small fish such as anchovies and sprats”.
“Tuna, sea bass, grey and red mullet, grouper, were esteemed and expensive. They particularly loved eel; it could cost at least 12 drachmas (a small sheep might cost 10 drachmas.)
“Fish was easier to serve than meat, because to serve meat you first had to arrange to sacrifice it, and with fish you didn’t. The first tuna caught in a good year, though, would be offered to Poseidon.”
Where once there was an abundance of fresh fish and seafood readily available in Greece, now however seafood is increasingly rare and expensive due to the overfishing and demand on the waters of the Aegean.
Influence on Australia
Australian mainstays like fried calamari may well owe much of their popularity to Greek immigrants, but according to legend even the ever-popular barramundi was introduced to dining menus across the nation by Greeks.
Neos Kosmos explains historians Leonard Janiszewski and Effy Alexakis were conducting research for Macquarie University when they uncovered the following interesting tale: it was Greek immigrants who entered the marine and wharf labour avenues and introduced barramundi fish into the Australian market.
It came at a time when many Greek immigrants were plying their fishing kills in the waters around Australia, including forging links with the indigenous community who had long eaten this native fish.
“Barramundi fish was a main food source for Australia’s first peoples but at the time, Anglo Australians were far from interested in consuming it due to its muddy taste and difficulty to catch,” Neo Kosmos notes.
“For the Greeks, however, barramundi is just a seabass variation and super close to a fish extremely popular in the Greek cuisine, the platypsaro.”
After World War II economic opportunity beckoned and it was a Greek family who first sold barramundi to the southern market and ultimately ensured it was on the plates of athletes at the 1956 Olympics.
A love affair with barramundi began and it’s diminished little in the years that followed.
George’s Mediterranean Bar and Grill continues this passion for seafood at our waterfront restaurant in Darling Harbour. We showcase some of Australia’s finest sea fare, using traditional Greek cooking techniques to highlight the fresh flavours on offer. Whether you seek prawns, baby snapper, or octopus, our love of seafood is yours to share.