The Mediterranean, birthplace of the Olympic Games. For centuries, ancient Greek champions pitted themselves against the best athletes in the world for the right to crown themselves victors, favored by Zeus and the other Gods of Olympus.
The Olympics have changed a little in over the past two thousand years—victors now get medals instead of olive branch crowns, and Greece doesn’t exactly top the podium much anymore—but the pursuit of excellence that the Mediterranean inspired all those years ago still unites the entire world every few years in a competition unlike anything else on Earth.
However, the Olympics aren’t just about amazing feats of strength, speed, and skill. The enduring legacy of the Olympics is how it brings people from diverse countries and cultures together, even amidst fierce competition.
So to celebrate that rich diversity and say goodbye to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio, here are a few signature dishes from four medal-winning Mediterranean countries that kept the Olympic spirit alive this year:
Greece (3 Gold, 1 Silver, 2 Bronze)
Hummus & Veggie Wrap
Since Greece is the home of the Olympics, it’s only fitting to start your exploration of Mediterranean cuisine at its foundation—hummus.
This ancient staple of practically every single Mediterranean kitchen might possibly be the world’s oldest snack food. Made with organic chickpeas, fresh cucumber, tomatoes, mixed greens, mint, olive oil, and a dollop of creamy tahini all wrapped in pita bread—a fresh, delicious organic hummus and veggie wrap might just be the Platonic ideal of Mediterranean food.
Jordan (1 Gold)
Whoever coined the Jordanian proverb, “Even when you’re full, you can always eat forty more bites of food,” must have been a fan of Mansaf.
Considered the unofficial national dish of Jordan, Mansaf—like so many Mediterranean meals—owes its distinct flavor to the sauce. Jameed, a hard, fermented goat milk yoghurt/gravy is poured over the rice and lamb for a delicious fusion of salt, sour, and smoky flavor. You can literally taste Jordan in every earthy bite.
Egypt (3 Bronze)
Ful wa Ta’meya (Fava Beans and Falafel)
Ful mudammas (fava beans) and Ta’meya (falafel) are the original Egyptian fast casual food. In fact, they’re kind of a staple of the Egyptian diet.
Made from slow-simmered fava beans, this richly textured stew is served with Ta’meya falafel—a fava bean-based twist on classic falafel recipes (a lot like our vegan-friendly baked falafel). If you’re looking to push your falafel game to the next level, this is the dish for you.
Tunisia (3 Bronze)
Tunisian Boiled Eggs and Shakshuka Sauce
If you haven’t tried it yet, shakshuka is an aromatic, slightly spicy stew that combines a chunky mix of organic tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, garlic, cumin, and olive oil to deliver a robust, earthy sauce perfect for group snacking. Top it off with boiled Tunisian eggs and serve with some pita bread to wow everyone at your next brunch get-together.
Versatile enough to be a side or a meal, shakshuka goes with practically anything—like a tuna sandwich!
No matter where they’re held every four years, the spirit of the Summer Olympics will always be rooted in the culture and tastes of the Mediterranean. Stop by any of our five convenient Manhattan locations and celebrate that pursuit of excellence with your own gold medal Mediterranean dish. We promise, you’ll feel like a champion.