What are those bagel-like things that people eat? There are piles of them sold at every corner and every Greek seems to munch at one while briskly walking to work.
They are not bagels. They are called koulouria (singular: koulouri; you may hear it pronounced in Forvo).
Koulouri is made with ordinary bread dough to which a little sugar has been added. It is liberally sprinkled with sesame and baked just like ordinary bread.
Although it can be found at every bakery, it is usually bought on the way, from the countless vendors and stalls found everywhere.
It’s at its best when eaten fresh from the oven; the crust is crunchy and the inside is soft and warm. It’s popular as breakfast-on-the-go among Greeks, most of whom never wake up early enough for a proper breakfast. Even after it’s cooled, it makes a nice quick snack at every hour of the day, consumed by young and old alike. It’s filling, doesn’t have any fat, is lent-appropriate and vegan and costs about half a euro – what more can anyone ask?
Traditionally, koulouri was a treat made of white flour, a rare and prized luxury in my grandparents’ time. For a long time the only type available was the lean and crunchy one. Then the braided, fluffy version appeared, which was soon followed by countless others; whole-wheat, mixed grains, with raisins, with cheese, stuffed with chocolate, and more.
Today we’re spoilt for choice – take your pick and enjoy!
PS. Koulouri can also be found in our close neighbor, Turkey, where it is called simit. Besides the name, there is no other difference between the two.