Recreate Greece’s Authentic Taste With Flavorsome Moussaka

Recreate Greece’s authentic taste with flavorsome MoussakaLike many who travel overseas, Toyoo Tamamura tries to recreate dishes he has enjoyed abroad on his return home. One such dish that he perfected through trial and error is the Greek classic Moussaka.

Tamamura, a 71-year-old essayist known for his insights into travel and food culture, is also an avid cook with a long-time interest in international cuisine.

Recalling his travels around Greece as a college student, Tamamura said he stepped into a restaurant one day. When the staff realized Tamamura did not understand Greek, they invited him into the kitchen and asked, “Which dish do you like?”

In every kitchen he entered, he saw a dish in a flat rectangle container covered with white sauce. It was oven-baked moussaka made of layers of sauteed eggplant, potato and tomato-flavored ground meat.

Back in Japan, he tried hard to recreate “that flavor” he had enjoyed in Greece. It was before the advent of the Internet, and cookbooks on foreign dishes were scarce. Once, he used raw potato slices thinking the oven would cook them, only to discover they were still hard. After trying a number of times, he came up with this week’s recipe.

The tomato sauce added to the ground meat was made from tomatoes harvested from Tamamura’s field and baked in the oven. Salt is sprinkled on halved tomatoes that are then left overnight to draw out their water.

Olive oil is poured on the tomatoes and they are cooked for an hour with a temperature setting of 180 degrees. He makes the flavorsome baked tomatoes in large amounts and keeps them frozen in bags.

“Moussaka is the best choice when entertaining guests,” he says. If you prepare layers of eggplant, potato and meat-based sauce in a heat-resistant container in advance, all you have to do is make the white sauce and pop the dish in the oven at the right time.

Tamamura says he still cooks in a trial-and-error manner. If he can’t find an item he needs in a supermarket, what does he buy instead? What steps does he take to prevent the eggplants from absorbing excess oil?

“There is no constraint to cooking, and trial and error is actually the fun part of it. If you go through trial and error, cooking is no longer a ‘routine’ where you repeat the same thing every day, but it becomes a ‘creation’ that involves a new approach each time,” says Tamamura.

Born in Tokyo in 1945, Toyoo Tamamura graduated in 1971 from the University of Tokyo where he studied French literature. He also studied at the University of Paris while in college. Tamamura, who is known for his essays on travel and food culture, grows wine grapes and vegetables at a farm in Tomi, Nagano Prefecture, and runs the Villa d’Est Gardenfarm and Winery and a cafe.

He has written many books, including “Ryori no shimentai” (Tetrahedron of cooking) and “Denen no kairaku” (Pleasures of rural life). He is also an active painter.

Serves eight.


400 grams ground beef and pork (aibiki-niku)

6 eggplants

3 potatoes

1/2 onion

1 clove garlic

200 cc tomato sauce

50 grams each of flour and butter

500 cc milk

Some powdered cheese or melting cheese


Slice eggplants and peeled potatoes. Sautee them separately with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

To make meat sauce, finely chop onion and garlic. Pour some olive oil in frying pan, sautee garlic and onion. Add ground meat and cook further. Add tomato sauce, reduce, season with salt and pepper and herbs of your choice.

To make white sauce, cook flour in butter. Make sure it does not brown. Add milk in small portions and mix. The sauce should turn out somewhat thick.

In a deep heat-resistant container, lay potato, eggplant and meat sauce in this order. Pour white sauce on top. Top with cheese and bake in oven heated to 200 degrees Celsius. It is done when the surface has browned.