The word soutzoukakia derives from the Turkish soujouk, which is a dry, spicy, sausage and the Greek suffix -akia, meaning “small”. The fact that it derives from the Turkish word does not mean, of course, that this is Turkish, as in Wikipedia we often see various things named as Turkish, when in fact they are not. Smyrneika describes the origin, which is Smyrna.
Smyrna was situated on the eastern shores of the Aegean Sea, opposite Chios in Asia Minor, with mainly Greek population.
In the early 20th century; Smyrna used to be a large, rich and cosmopolitan Greek community, who were renowned for their trading achievements, mainly dealing in tobacco and was famous for its cuisine.
After the invasion of the Turkish army into Smyrna in 1922 and the burning of the city by the Turks, the entire Greek population was ejected from Smyrna and forced to seek refuge, originally to Greece and then to other countries. It was not easy to estimate how many were the refugees but at the census of 1928 they estimated 1.069.957, not taking into account those, who in the meantime scattered all over the world, others to Cyprus, Egypt (Cairo and Alexandria), France, United States, etc. (Source: Ardin – From the speach during the 80 years anniversay of The Destruction of Smyrna (2002), at the University of Piraeus, by Nikos Venetos)
Most of the refugees came to Greece; We can recognize places where the refugees settled, by the names they gave to these places, where respective cities there in Asia Minor had the same name i.e. Smyrni became Nea Smyrni, (Nea meaning new) Nea Ionia, Nea Makri, Nea Philadelphia, Nea Chalkidona, Nea Erythrea, Nea Mychaniona, Nea Kallikrateia, Nea Malgara and innumerable other places.
The neighbourhood I am living in is called Kessariani, and is one of many neighbourhoods in Athens that the refugees from the destruction of Asia Minor, mainly from Smyrna, were settled here in 1922. Most of the streets in Kessariani bear names of their lost homeland.
For those who love reading I would recommend Theo Halo’s Book “Not Even My Name” the true story of how her mother left Asia Minor, on foot, reached Syria (if I remember correctly after so many years of reading the book) married there and eventually went to the United States.
Recently there was a lot of argument and discussion about the new 6th grade elementary history book. Politicians want us to forget but we won’t. There are a lot of things to remind us about it, even cooking.
All the destruction of Asia Minor is described in the history book with two lines and I quote:
“On the 27th August 1922 the Turkish army enters in Smyrna. Thousands of Greeks are crowded at the port trying to get into ships so that they may leave for Greece…”.
Maria Rembousi, History 6th elementary grade. Recent and contemporary years, Athens, School Editions, 2006, page 100.
The displaced Asia Minor Smyrna residents brought their customs and cuisine with them to their new homes. Soutzoukakia is one of the dishes that originated in Smyrna, and remains a popular menu item in Greek homes and tavernas today.
Soutzoukakia Smyrneika (Meatballs in tomato sauce)
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Frying time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
For the Meat balls:
- ½ kilo ground beef
- ½ kilo ground pork
- 2 minced onions
- 2 eggs
- 2 tablespoon red wine
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
½ bunch of parsley (about 1/2 cup) finely chopped
1- 2 cloves of minced garlic, add more if you like garlic
- 1 tsp of ground cumin or more according to your taste
- ¼ tsp. red chilly pepper
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Half a loaf of soaked bread, crusts removed
- Flour (for dredging)
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 minced onion
- ¼ cup of olive oil
- 1 bay leaf
- 3 cups ground tomatoes, fresh or canned
- 1 cup dry red dry wine
- 1 Tbsp honey
Directions for the meatballs:
- Soak the bread for about 5 minutes, or until thoroughly softened.
- Then, squeeze out the excess water.
- In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, the wine, soaked bread, onion, garlic, egg, parsley, cumin, chilly pepper, salt and pepper to taste. (I blend the onion and garlic in the multi mulinette together with 1 egg).
- Mix the ingredients until thoroughly blended.
- Dampen your hands, pinch off portions of meat mixture, about the quantity of a regular meatball or just over, and shape into approximately 30 oval rolls (looks sort of like an elongated, slightly flattened, meatball).
- Dredge them in flour.
Add the meatballs, about 10 at a time and fry until browned all over, turning once and allowing time for the meat to cook thoroughly. Remove from the pan using a fork and set aside.
Directions for the Sauce
- Place fresh oil into a cooking pan.
- Sauté the minced onion, add tomatoes, wine and a glass of water, add salt, pepper, bay leaf and honey.
- Bring to a boil and simmer until the sauce is thick.
- Remove bay leaf and drop in the meatballs, lower heat and stir to cover all over with the sauce, and simmer covered for 15 minutes.
Serve hot with a Rice Pilaf, French fries (the Greek way), or mashed potatoes.
See new recipe on soutzoukakia here.