One well-liked lunch item is the gyro. It is a dish wherein meat is set and cooked on a vertical spit and it usually comes with tomatoes, onion, and a generous helping of tzatziki sauce. They’re tasty and all food groups are represented providing the perfect midday meal.
What is a Gyro?
The word “gyro” is Greek for spin, around or rotate. And essentially, gyros are prepared that way. Pork, veal and lamb are the most common types of meat used when cooking gyros. The choice of meat is stacked on a vertical rotating spit and roasted. Chicken is also commonly used for gyros. The meat is always moist due to the layers of fat in it, while it remains crispy because of the heat. When the meat is done, it is thinly trimmed from the upright spit and placed in a piece of pita. It is served with tomatoes, onions and tzatziki sauce – a combination of yoghurt, garlic and cucumber.
Special attention is also given to the spices used when preparing gyros. The meat is bathed in a blend of paprika, oregano, salt, pepper and garlic. But you can make your own blend by adding other spices, such as, parsley, allspice, cumin and many others.
This is how traditional gyros are done. Today, many eateries serving gyros also offer all sorts of fillings. Fried potatoes are popular fillings for gyros in Greece, too. And there are also gyros made with falafel, not meat, for vegetarians. It’s really just another version of a sandwich. Other common filling substitutes are: pickled vegetables, lettuce and mayonnaise.
In Greece, there are many types of pita bread, like: plain, Cypriot and Arabic. The most common type of pita bread is the plain one, and this is also the thickest of the three. Cypriot pitas are thinner than plain ones, and it has a split center much like that of a pocket bread. Arabic pitas, though, are the crispiest and the flattest of the three.
Though the name gyros – pronounced as ‘yee-ros’ – is a Greek word, gyros in general are not of Greek origin, as many may believe.
The dish is originally from Turkey. It was created during the 19th century and was originally known as a doner kebab. It was later brought to Greece. In Arab countries, shawarmas are quite popular, which are very much similar to gyros.
The first US gyro was made in Chicago in the mid-1960s. There are some disputes as to whoever made the first gyro in Chicago. According to an article in The New York Times dated July 14, 2009, it was John Garlic who made the first gyro. But it really doesn’t matter because they weren’t the only ones who acquired a taste for gyros. The dish became widespread and very popular as a midday meal.
Preparing Your Tzatziki
Today, you can put whatever sauce you want in your gyros, but the best and the most authentic is still tzatziki. This creamy sauce has lots of garlic for flavor and the cucumber helps cool off spices from other components of the dish.
Making a tzatziki sauce is simple and easy. Tzatziki sauce isn’t only for gyros. It’s also a savory spread, veggie dip and salad dressing.
To make your own:
Just blend 16 ounces of Greek yoghurt with half of a finely cut up cucumber, and two cloves of finely chopped garlic. Using Greek yogurt is better as the regular ones are too soft. Season with some salt and white pepper. Others also add some fresh dill and lemon to give more depth of flavor.
Gyros are one of the healthier fast food options out there, as long as you skip the fried potatoes, and they are a big step up from a two dollar burger. Gyros are the best. With flavorful and wonderfully broiled melt-in-your-mouth meat and savory filling, there’s truly nothing like it. BOLA TANGKAS
Authentic Tandoori Chicken recipe and product endorsement by Celebrity Chef Harpal Singh Sokhi