One of the reasons we travel is to enjoy food. Thinking about heading to Cyprus soon and taste Cypriot Cuisine? Well, let me take you to this appetizing journey.
Raise your hands if you are binge-watching Netflix food series! Of course, count me in! These shows are taking me to the mouthwatering flavors from Bangkok, Mexico, Dublin, New Orleans, Marrakesh, and everywhere! But wait, how about Mediterranean food? If I’m not mistaken it has not been featured so far, except for Malta which is the closest country, I suppose.
So, let’s check out what comprises Mediterranean food and I am taking you to a foretaste of Cypriot food.
Aha! Healthy and helps you to lose weight. At the end of this article, I wanna hear you saying YES to this or Umm or AHA! 😉
Do you have any idea?
Cypriot Cuisine is not so far from the Greek food. What varies aside from Greek influences; it has strong influences from Arabic and Turkish. The spices give an exciting kick to these dishes but not so spicy. Bear in mind that Cypriots are Greeks too and part of Cyprus is Turkish occupied.
With four cookbooks, home cooking is such delight and I have several favorite recipes. Here is a rundown of Cypriot dishes.
I. Vegetables, Beans & Halloumi
Cyprus has rich agricultural produce and these are a popular diet in every Cypriot home. Home cooking with fresh potatoes, zucchinis, carrot, beans, eggplant, spinach, tomatoes, and celery are very common. These recipes are from grandma’s cooking.
Olive oil is also a very abundant produce thus, more use of this oil. Boiled veggies and beans are sizzled with olive oil, lemon, salt, and pepper.
By the way, lemons are part in almost all of the dishes – vegetables, meat, soups and salads.
Spices and herbs commonly used are thyme, basil, parsley, coriander, mint, cumin, pepper and paprika.
Halloumi cheese is very popular in Cyprus, a white and brined cheese from the goat’s, and sheep’s milk. This is the type of cheese that you can enjoy in so many ways – raw, fried, grilled. One of the products for exports to various countries worldwide.
An easy dinner will be a sandwich with halloumi cheese with tomatoes.
Souvlaki – Cyprus BBQ
We know that every country has its own version of BBQ. Here in Cyprus, it is souvla, which means skewers. Pieces of meat such as pork, chicken, and lamb are grilled in these skewers and you can also put mushrooms, peppers, and tomatoes. My earliest recollection around Greeks is dining with souvlaki be it in their homes or tavernas/restaurants. You will eat this with pita bread, salad and tahini or hummus.
Souvlakia is the regular sandwich – pieces of meat stuffed in pita bread with salad, tahini or hummus sauce, and fried potatoes as a side dish.
My favorite! This is a traditional Cypriot sausage – pork and lamb sausage. A rich flavor sausage and great for souvla too! Or grill it in the oven.
Is a Greek version of meatloaf or sometimes I call it a big version of sheftalia. A lamb’s membrane covers the entire roll. Another favorite of mine.
Lamb is a popular menu during big celebrations and for Sunday lunch. During Easter, they have a traditional lamb soup from internal parts called Magiritsa and grilling of lamb’s intestines with other parts called kokoretsi.
Ofto Kleftiko is lamb cook in a hole in the ground just like the old times. Some restaurants offer this a few times a week. Per serving is about 10 EUR. “A story about ofto kleftiko is about a stolen lamb from the herd then cook for hours underground. During mealtime, the owner of the stolen lamb is invited, to “tease him” of the lost lamb.”
Pastitsio is a baked macaroni version, it can also be called as Makarona de forno. Totally a comfort food, with a touch of mint taste. On top is a bechamel white sauce. Yum! Trust me, I can eat this for days!
Calamari is a popular seafood dish. Fish coated in batter usually, a red mallet fish or called locally as barbouni; paired with fried potatoes, hence fish and chips.
For bigger fish, we grill it in the oven with vegetables, lemon juice, and olive oil.
This is octopus stewed in wine. However, shells and shrimps are no longer abundant in Cyprus waters.
The traditional dessert is a spoonful of yogurt with sweetened fruit on top. Glyko tou koutaliou means a spoonful of sweet. There is a festival for these sweets in the mountain village of Kakopetria and you can get a free taste of a variety of sweetened fruits.
Another favorite dessert of mine is ekmek kadaifi, which is of Turkish origin. I love its creamy texture and just an OMG moment.
VI. Breads and Pies
Head to the local market for traditional breads. Psomi is a traditional village bread and sometimes with olives in it. Koullouri is a pretzel like bread which is great for snacks.
And pies – Tiropita/Cheese pie, Spanakopita/Spinach pie. Pies are wrap in filo sheets, these are thin sheets of dough, also use in baklava.
Every place has its own local drink. For Cyprus, it is Zivania; a pomace brandy from the distillation of grapes and local wines. And here’s more, alcohol content is….40-99%! Are you ready for this?
How do you say cheers the Cypriot way? Στην υγειά σας /Stin Geai Sas which means – for your health!
In Greece you say Yamas for cheers and the local drink is tsiporou.
If the zivania is too strong for you, you have a selection of Cyprus wines with an alcohol content of about 12%. The southern part of Troodos mountain is where most of the wine villages are. Certainly a destination for wine tasting.
Kopiaste na fame!
Cypriots welcome their guests by saying Kopiaste.
Welcome, Let’s Eat!
Now you have an overview of the taste of Cypriot Cuisine. It is not far from what you have in mind with the many influences. As per history, several invasions affect their food. That’s why this differs from the flavors and taste of Greek food in Greece.
Communal eating is the best way to describe the Cypriot way of eating, that’s why they have meze. True to that this is the best way in tasting a variety of traditional Cypriot dishes. Once in Cyprus, book yourself to a meze restaurant, and take note that you will have as many as thirty-five varieties of small dishes. Make sure you are gear up for this and of course, a round of drinks with great company will conclude this unforgettable meal.
Finally, a more amazing experience is to accept an invitation from locals and dine together with them. Share the good food, learn more about their culture, and hear great stories from the past.
So what’s the verdict when it comes to healthy food?
Is this reason enough to visit Cyprus?
I hope you all have an appetizing journey and let me know if I have activated your palates somehow.