One of the biggest attractions when visiting a Mediterranean island such as Cyprus is gaining an appreciation of its local and authentic food and drink choices. There’s no denying that the island has a vast range of specialist foods and favorite drinks which mark them out as Cypriot favorites. Therefore, if you’re planning on making the most of your trip and really getting immersed eating as the locals do, here are some of the most loved dishes and drink choices Cypriots prepare on a regular basis.
Perhaps one of the most popular and well known of Cyprus delicacies, Halloumi is a cheese dish which combines goats and sheep’s milk and rennet, giving it a saltier overall flavor. Because of its higher melting point, it can, therefore, be served in many ways including grilled or fried, as well as being served cold.
Another favorite dish is Souvlaki, which is a skewer of charcoaled and grilled small meat chunks, accompanied by a generous serving of fresh salad. This is a popular meal with locals who combine it with a pitta bread, which is thinner here containing a pocket for these ingredients as opposed to a complete wrapping.
Though it has a similar name and indeed appearance to Souvlaki, this offers a different taste and is basically larger meat chunks which are slow cooked using a large skewer. They’re also usually cooked over a charcoaled barbeque, that is a foukou. Seen as a king meat dish, it’s a typical group dish and very popular for Easter Sunday.
Though it’s cooked in a traditional oven now for many hours, Kleftiko means stolen. This refers to meat that people would historically steal and bury in covered holes in the ground where it would be slow cooked, therefore stopping any smoke escaping and giving away the thief’s location! Now combined with oregano, red wine and bay leaves to flavor it can be accompanied by soft potatoes and an onion and tomato sauce. Many Cypriots prefer to have some yogurt to hand to refresh after each bite.
These are spiced sausage parcels which are full of herbs and often combined with Souvlaki. Usually, the meat is minced pork or lamb which is grilled. However, there are many vegetarian options as well, including halloumi and mushrooms.
Kolokouthkia me ta afka
This is basically a fried courgette and scrambled eggs dish which is typically served alongside several other mezze dishes. This is the dish you’ll commonly find in Cyrus restaurants as it’s considered a typical and straightforward Cypriot dish which accompanies several main dishes.
Translated as a clay pot, this refers to the container that is used as customary when preparing this old-style meal. Consisting of rice, vegetable, potatoes, and chunks of lamb, all ingredients are combined and placed in a pit, with a dash of cumin added to taste. This is a cultural dish which can trace its heritage back many years.
This is a warm and inviting meat dish which is another local favorite whereby beef is cooked using sticks of cinnamon and cloves, therefore giving it a sweeter kick. Prepared with onions and drenched in wine to serve, it is allowed to cook for many hours before being served and best accompanied by bowls of rice or pilaf.
Seen as a more staple meal regularly prepared in the Cypriot home, this dish is a simplistic but healthy one. Consisting of black beans, these are low in fat but high in protein and carbohydrates. Served with boiled courgettes, salt, lemon, swiss chard, and oil, these beans are very tolerant of all-weather types and a regular feature in many meals, particularly cultural and religious.
Referred to as honey doughnuts, these are sweet treats which you’ll find in many a Cypriot coffee shop. Made by deep frying dough balls, they are then soaked in honey before being generously covered with sesame seeds, crushed nuts, and cinnamon. Perfect for enjoying during the summer when sitting out in a quintessential village, these have a beautiful light and spongy texture.
Cyprus Coffee – If you’re a coffee enthusiast, you’ll be delighted to learn that the island has its own unique coffee, which is unlike any other you’ll have tried before! Served with an ice-cold glass of water each time, this is a stronger tasting drink than usual, with the methods used to brew this coffee to perfection making it unique.
Brandy Sour – The national drink of Cyprus and a most popular of cocktail concoctions, this is Cyprus lemon squash, Cypriot brandy, soda water, and angostura bitter all combined.
KEO – The traditional and award-winning beer of Cyprus which is made by the Cypriots.
Commandaria – Claimed to be one of the oldest wines in the world, this is a sweet dessert wine which is used for special occasions only.