Thessaloniki’s Fish & ChipsSep 29th, 2011 | By Peter Minakis | Category: Cooking Tour of Greece, Featured, Fish, Lent, Review, Thessaloniki, Travel
Early in my vacation to Greece this summer (within the first week) we got our first rain. This could mean we get the usual one (o two) summer showers that are the usual or…this would be an omen of an unusually rainy summer. The latter scenario proved to be false and Summer of 2011 proved to be hot, sunny and completed with some gorgeous and warm beaches.
On the day after it rained the temperature dipped to about 26C and I decided to head into Thessaloniki (from Halkidiki) with my mom, friend George and do some shopping and take in some lunch before heading back to our summer home. Lunch was settled – we were going to the Limani (harbour) to take in a bite of Thessaloniki’s popular and delicious Fish & Chips…”gia bakalarakia” (for cod fish). Today, there are many shops that dot the city and serve battered and fried cod with Skordalia but the original fish and chip shop originated near the harbour and the store is called , “Ta Bakalarakia tou Aristou”.
The family business began way back in 1910 when the original Aristos had a shop that baked Bougatses in the morning and served sardines and anchovies for those working at the Port. In 1941, the son (Aristos Jr.) takes over the business and this is where cod also enters the menu for the first time. The shop was small, the kitchen was fueled by wood/charcoal and fish was served by 9 or 10am at the latest. Patrons packed the fish shop, eating elbow to elbow and they would simply lay down some newsprint on the tables or any flat surface ( even the hoods of cars)!
The need for a larger shop was very clear and they changed shop locations again and expanded to a larger shop. The patrons kept coming, the shop filled up again but the Keranidis family still served battered and friend cod on paper with their secret recipe of Skordalia (a garlic spread) and hot pepper. Today, the next generation runs Ta Bakalarakia tou Aristou with a brand new store, large, modern but still tucked in an alley right across from the Port.
Hand-cut potatoes and given away to machines but the same Skordalia is served (they won’t give up the secret recipe), a consistent supply of salt cod from Norway is used and those same hot green peppers are offered when you order (go for it)! We visited the location on Fasianou across from the Port. If you go in the morning, you may still see some harbour workers going for a morning bite but the large contingent of patrons that sat amongst us were civil servants, suits and bankers who work in nearby offices and sit down for lunch around 3pm.
Salt cod fish entered the local cuisine from the 15th century, after the Vikings searched for the new world only to discover cod and then the Spaniards and Portuguese brought cod back to Europe in a big way. In Greece, fish is allowed by the church to be eaten during Lent on March 25th and also on Palm Sunday. The line-ups for bakalarakia at Aristou’s shops go out the door but the popularity of this dish goes well beyond eating salt cod according to religious observances.
This battered and fried cod, along with the best Skordalia I’ve ever tasted is simply delicious. The batter is made of water, a “hard” flour and salt. The portions are generous as shown in the photos and the salt cod is soaked in water to draw out just the right amout of salt from the preserved fish. Not too salty, not bland at all!
The menu is extensive but keep it simple: order the fried cod along with the round coins of potato fries and a yes, order some hot peppers. The Skordalia is to die for: garlic and soaked bread are mashed in a mortar & pestle and then oil and ground walnuts are slowly added until emulsified. A side of lahanosalata (a kind of coleslaw) makes for a good side and your choice of beverage is up to you: cold beer, some retsina or wine, Ouzo or tsipouro. The bread will also arrive at your table and I recommend scooping some Skordalia and have another taste of this Skordalia and try to figure out if there’s anything else in this secret recipe. Hmmmmmmm.
Go to the Fasianou location by the Port (where I went). If sightseeing and you see the White Tower, walk on Leoforos Nikis west towards the port and as soon as you see this building, cross the street and look for Fasainou St. and grab a seat outside – great for people watching and it’s shaded. You’ll see the old shop right across from where you are – imagine line-ups out the door, Port workers eating on stands, newsprint placed on flat carts, men talking about women, money and politics!
Fasianou 2, Thessaloniki tel. 2310-548668
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