This delicious, fragrant and crisp bagel called Koulouri, is one of the favourite daily snacks of the Athenians for more than a hundred years. It was introduced under the name “Koulouri Thessalonikis” because it was originally made in Thessaloniki by Greek refugee bakers.
It’s story starts from Byzantium, the word Koulouri comes from the Byzantine kollikion and was popular mainly in Istanbul and Thessaloniki. The bagels were sold in the streets, in the squares, at ports and stations, outside churches and in other urban locations mainly by children, elder and handicaps. It has always been the popular out and about snack.
The street vendors, used to operate 4 exits during the day by reloading the trays with fresh bagels from the baker. The first exit was at 5:00 am, the second at noon, the third at around 8:00 in the evening and the last about midnight, targeting the night owl clientele who were the most enthusiasts of the snack.
Some logistics of that time:The bakers were selling 100 bagels for 3.30 drachmas* (0.01 euro) from which the vendor making profit of 1.70 drachmas (0,005 euro). Even the youngest koulouras** could sell 200 to 300 bagels after the 4 daily exits.
On average in Athens early 1900s were circulating about a hundred wandering vendors besides those who had their own “post” in central locations of Athens.
The recipe:Made from wheat flour, yeast, water, salt and sugar. But the very secret of the bagel flavor, (besides baking and pastry) is the high quality of sesame .The paste is spread into small sticks, which were then placed in hot water for about 20 minutes. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and baked in the oven .
The genuine bagel,”said Elsa Koukoumeria” is thin, round, well-made, crispy and soft the inside. It contains only 85 calories and zero fat, so it is highly recommended by dieticians and nutritionists.
Nowadays, we recommend you try a koulouri that’s easy to find when strolling in Athens center. For only 0.5 euro you’ll enjoy a delicious, still healthy and nutritious snack. Meet the koulouras spots at Monastiraki, Thission, Plaka, Ermou street, Syntagma square, National Garden and many more central locations of Athens.
*drachma: the national Greek currency before euro, 1 euro equals to 340,75 drachmas**koulouras: the street vendor sells the bagels on either a big basket, tray or in a trolley.