It is not only real estate in Cyprus that makes the island so popular with foreign visitors. The traditional cuisine of this Mediterranean country is also an important attraction. Cyprus unique geographical position has led to the influence of Greek, Turkish and Arab culinary traditions on the national cuisine of this island. Interestingly, in the past, the variety of food in Cyprus was quite limited due to the dry climate, which has taught Cypriots to make delicious and healthy meals using just a few ingredients. One of the bases of the island's cuisine is olive oil. Cyprus' national dishes also include many fresh seasonal vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and eggplants. And, of course, most dishes are generously flavored with lemon juice. Cypriots really enjoy their food, turning each meal into a kind of ritual, as well as a reason to get together with a family or friends. Traditionally, a dinner in Cyprus includes a glass of good wine, chilled white in summer or red in winter.
Cyprus cuisine: meat and seafood
Many of the national dishes of Cyprus include meat or fish. Some of the dishes that you should definitely try are the following:
- Souvlaki. These are small pieces of meat, traditionally lamb, pork, chicken, or sometimes beef, which are served in pita bread with pickled salad, hummus and tzatziki sauce. The meat for the dish is slowly cooked over charcoal. Kebab, or souvlaki, is an integral part of Cypriot culture and is often cooked at family gatherings or ordered for lunch.
- Stifado. This is a traditional flavoursome stew. It is cooked in wine, vinegar, onions and spices such as garlic and oregano. Originally the recipe implies beef or veal, but it can also be cooked with rabbit, pork or even poultry.
- Kleftiko. This dish has a far from romantic history - in old times, thieves used to put the meat of a stolen goat or lamb in the soil underneath a burning fire, so that no one would suspect anything, and kept it there for a long time. Even the name comes from the Greek word "klevo" - to steal. Today the dish is cooked in clay ovens wrapped in foil, but the process still takes several hours, so the meat is very tender and literally melts in your mouth.
- Octopus. This is a real delicacy that is cooked on the island in a variety of ways - fried, pickled, stewed. One of the most popular cooking options is stewed octopus in wine sauce.
Cyprus cuisine: vegetable
Like all Mediterranean cuisines, Cyprus one is rich in vegetable dishes, which makes it very wholesome and healthy. Among the most popular vegetables in Cyprus are zucchinis, eggplants, peppers, beans and artichokes. They make a wide variety of stews or vegetable casseroles. You should definitely try these dishes when visiting the island:
- Mousaka. This is one of the most popular vegetable dishes in Cyprus. Moussaka is cooked with eggplants, tomatoes and often a bit of lamb mince. Some recipes also include zucchini, potatoes, or mushrooms. All ingredients are laid out in layers and baked with béchamel sauce.
- Kolokasi. It is a root vegetable that tastes like sweet potato. Kolokasi can only be found in Cyprus and some other Greek islands. It is much loved on the island - there is even a kolokasi festival, where Cypriots share their family recipes.
- Pilaf. Several centuries ago, this dish was considered “the food of the poor”. Today it is one of the most popular on the island. Pilaf is not only a simple and affordable dish but incredibly tasty and healthy. It is prepared from Bulgur wheat with tomato juice and onions.
- Louvi. Like most traditional Cyprus dishes, this type of beans is a very simple and healthy dish. Louvi is boiled in water and served with vegetables, oil, salt and lemon. Tuna, cucumber and tomato are often used to add flavour.
Traditional Cyprus dishes are served in most restaurants of the island, which can deliver your meal even to your hotel room, or your apartment or villa in Cyprus.
Cyprus cuisine: desserts
The desserts in Cyprus are amazing. This island is a real paradise for sweet lovers. Of course, it is almost impossible to try everything during your vacation, so we have selected the best desserts in Cyprus, which everyone should definitely try:
- Loukoumades. Loukoumades are very popular in Cyprus - they are served in almost all cafes. This dessert is prepared from balls of soft dough, deep fried until golden brown, and then covered with honey or syrup and sprinkled with chopped nuts, sesame seeds, or cinnamon if desired. Loukoumades are similar to honey donuts and have a light, spongy texture. The dessert is so tasty and popular that Greece, Turkey and Egypt claim the rights of authenticity.
- Shoushouko. The dessert is made from thickened grape juice with honey and nuts. It goes well with tea and coffee, and because it doesn’t not have a sugary taste, it is very pleasant and refreshing. Usually the dessert is prepared during the wine-making season. To make one, take an amount of grape juice, add honey and starch to it to thicken, and when the mixture becomes thick dip threaded nuts in it. Then the thread is pulled out and hung to dry in the sun.
- Rizogalo. This is one of the most delicious rice puddings in the world. The main ingredients of the dessert are rice, milk, corn flower and cinnamon. Rizogalo is served chilled, or even better, straight from the refrigerator.
- Pastelaki. Like many of the desserts in Cyprus, this one originated from Ancient Greece. Local nuts and sesame seeds are used for its preparation. It is a nutritious and healthy dessert, and it can be stored for a long time. That is why pastelaki is a great souvenir or sweet gift from Cyprus.
Of course, Cyprus cuisine is not limited to the abovementioned dishes - it is incredibly diverse and everyone can find something to their liking.