Souvla is a type of meat dish on a skewer that is common on the island of Cyprus near Greece. The word is a Greek word, where similar types of skewered meats are also common in Greek cooking. One of these is the souvlaki, which is generally smaller than the Cypriot dish. Both of these are prepared similarly.
This traditional dish, which is composed of rather large pieces of meat with no other substantial ingredients, is often cooked on a charcoal grill. Specific grills called spit roasters are used for cooking this dish. These include a rotating element that moves the skewer to cook the meat evenly.
Some of the meat that is commonly used in this dish is pork and mutton. Cooks will typically make this dish with the neck or shoulder of the animal. In some cases, pork souvla is actually composed of an entire pig, roasted on a spit or revolving skewer.
Often, cooks will use ingredients like garlic, olive oil, and other items as a marinade for this dish. These ingredients create the unique surface textures and flavors for souvla. Other common spices include turmeric and coriander. Cooks may also use minced onion or lemon juice, or any combination of the above.
Those who are experienced with cooking this type of food, point out that souvla is among the more difficult dishes to cook well. Certain food safety issues apply to this kind of cooking, where it may be hard to get sufficient heat to the internal portion of the meat without burning the outer layers. It typically takes two to three hours or more to cook this dish.
Since souvla presents significant cooking complications, some of the other dishes that include smaller bits of meat are commonly substituted for souvla, which is often eaten on holidays or other special occasions, where smaller skewered meats are more commonly sold throughout the year. In general, souvla is very similar to the type of food that is recognized worldwide as a kebab, or mixed meat and vegetables on a skewer. The main difference is that with souvla, the meat is the only main ingredient, without additional vegetable or fruit portions on the skewer. This dish is relatively unique to Greece and Cyprus, though other societies will typically have their own recipes for spit-grilled meat, under different names and different presentations.