Cyprus offers a unique fusion of Greek, Turkish, and Middle Eastern influences in its cuisine, creating a rich gastronomic tapestry that’s uniquely Cypriot. Here are the key tips to guide your culinary journey through Cyprus.
1. Start with Meze
A traditional Cypriot meal often starts with ‘meze,’ a selection of small dishes served as appetizers. From dips like ‘tahini,’ ‘tzatziki,’ and ‘taramasalata,’ to ‘halloumi’ cheese and ‘loukaniko’ sausages, it’s a culinary adventure on a platter.
2. Savor the National Cheese, Halloumi
Halloumi, a semi-hard, unripened cheese, is a Cypriot delicacy. Enjoy it grilled, where it attains a beautifully crisp exterior while maintaining a soft interior, or in salads, sandwiches, and a variety of dishes.
3. Try the Traditional Kleftiko
‘Kleftiko’ is a succulent, slow-roasted lamb dish cooked in a sealed clay oven for hours. The result is meltingly tender meat, typically served with potatoes and vegetables.
4. Indulge in Seafood
With its expansive coastline, Cyprus offers an array of fresh seafood. Try ‘calamari,’ ‘octopus,’ or ‘lavraki’ (sea bass) for a true taste of the Mediterranean Sea.
5. Sample Cypriot Pastries
For a sweet treat, try ‘loukoumades’ (honey-soaked doughnuts), ‘baklava’ (a sweet pastry made of layers of filo filled with chopped nuts and syrup or honey), or ‘kataifi’ (shredded wheat dessert filled with nuts and soaked in syrup).
6. Visit Local Bakeries and Markets
Local bakeries offer a variety of Cypriot bread and pastries, while markets are perfect for fresh fruits, vegetables, and local produce.
7. Taste Commandaria and Cypriot Coffee
Commandaria, a sweet dessert wine dating back to ancient times, is a must-try. Complement it with a robust Cypriot coffee, served in traditional small cups.
8. Enjoy Cypriot Beers and Spirits
Sample local beers like Keo or Leon, and don’t miss trying ‘Zivania,’ a traditional grape-based spirit known for its potency.
9. Respect Dining Etiquette
Cypriots usually eat late, with lunch happening around 2 pm and dinner often after 8 pm. Take your time to savor your meal, as Cypriots see dining as a social event rather than a rushed affair.
10. Engage with Locals
Locals can provide insights into the best local eats and hidden gems. Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations.
Cypriot cuisine offers a delightful exploration of Mediterranean flavors, punctuated by the island’s unique cultural influences. From the ubiquitous meze and halloumi cheese to slow-cooked kleftiko, sweet pastries, and potent spirits, Cyprus promises a captivating culinary adventure. Enjoy your gastronomic journey in Cyprus!