Whether you call it a “gear-oh,” a “J-eye-roh,” or a “yee-roh,” the perpetually mispronounced gyro is a popular and delicious staple at almost every sub shop and pizza joint. It’s a folded flatbread sandwich that combines meat, vegetables, and a delightful sauce. The flavor profile usually includes a spicy meat and the coolness of the sauce, held together by a warm pita. Read on for the lowdown on the history of the gyro and a brief primer on how they’re made.
Where Did It Come From?
The original gyro hails from Greece, likely as far back as the time of Alexander the Great, when he and his troops would skewer their meat on long swords and roast it over a fire, turning it slowly. Gyro meat is still cooked rotisserie style today. The Greece roots also influence the sauce that goes on every gyro, tzatziki sauce. The name gyro, however, hails from New York in the early 1970s. When the sandwich exploded in popularity in 1971, the New York Times quoted native Greeks as saying that it tasted similar to what they had in Athens.
What’s In It?
The foundation of the gyro is the bread, a round pita that is warmed or grilled. This pita may be the pocket type that most people associate with the name, or it could be a slightly larger, greasier flat bread. On top of the bread, you next have meat. The traditional Greek gyro uses a mix of lamb and beef, which is minced and pressed into a conical shape before being roasted on a spit. Rotisserie meat of any kind, including pork and chicken, often finds its way onto the American gyro. The sandwich is then topped with veggies to your taste, including lettuce, onions, tomatoes, and even sometimes french fries. The final ingredient is the tzatziki sauce, a yogurt-based sauce that includes cucumbers and dill. The tzatziki sauce balances the spice of the meat and cools the heat of the sandwich a bit. Once you try a gyro for the first time, you may find that you love the sauce enough to add it to your sauce line up, perhaps even for your crab cakes.
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