This Unusual Greek Delicacy Is Pickled in Seawater

Fouskes, or sea squirts, are the main ingredients in spinialo, a delicacy from Kalymnos
Fouskes, or sea squirts, are the main ingredients in spinialo, a delicacy from Kalymnos | © Varaine / WikiCommons
Ethel Dilouambaka

Iceland has its hákarl, a national delicacy made of rotten shark meat, and Sardinia has its maggot cheese. But do you know spinialo? This seafood dish has been prepared on the island of Kalymnos for centuries – here is what you need to know about this unusual dish.

What is spinialo?

One of the main sponge diving centres in the Mediterranean is the island of Kalymnos, and in addition to its rugged peaks and booming climbing culture, this island is also home to a unique local delicacy. While natural sponges from Kalymnos are widely used across the Mediterranean, spinialo is largely unknown to international audiences.


A delicious appetiser, spinialo consists of sea squirts (or fouskes), marine invertebrate animals that can easily be mistaken for a rock, marinated for weeks in seawater and a bit of olive oil. Often, sea urchins, scallops, mussels or devil fish are added to the mix. This dish is usually served with a drizzle of lemon on a barley rusk. With its bitter taste from the iodine and its soft texture, spinialo is definitely an acquired taste, but this is often the case for the most unusual delicacies.

Traditionally, sponge divers prepared this dish; they had to resort to pickling as they embarked on their week- or month-long sea voyages across the Mediterranean. Preserving their catch in the liquid most available to them – seawater – was their solution to the lack of fresh food throughout the journey.

Where can you try spinialo?

To this day, fishermen still make the dish in bottles of seawater and often sell it on the island, mostly to fish markets. You can also occasionally find it in restaurants and tavernas, such as To Ouzeri tou Sfouggara (+30 22430 28887), which serves spinialo with a combination of fan mussels and sea urchins. The delicacy can also be found sporadically in mainland Greece. Fish Point is a fish restaurant and deli in Athens that serves sushi, spinialo and a variety of other seafood.

While not very well known in mainland Greece, spinialo is even less familiar abroad when compared to more popular Greek dishes such as moussaka or gyros. However, this delicacy is definitely worth a try if you have the chance to visit Kalymnos and stumble upon a fish market where you spot bottles of this unique appetiser. Who knows, you might actually get hooked on it.

Culture Trips launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes places and communities so special.

Our immersive trips, led by Local Insiders, are once-in-a-lifetime experiences and an invitation to travel the world with like-minded explorers. Our Travel Experts are on hand to help you make perfect memories. All our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.?>

All our travel guides are curated by the Culture Trip team working in tandem with local experts. From unique experiences to essential tips on how to make the most of your future travels, we’ve got you covered.

Culture Trip Spring Sale

Save up to $1,656 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article