What is the food like in Cyprus?
If you’ve got your sights set on Cyprus as your next Mediterranean destination, it’s definitely a great choice. Not only does it boast year-round sunshine but the food is also something to write home about – or Instagram to your heart’s content.
How other countries have influenced the cuisine
Cypriot cuisine is influenced by its neighbours – Greece, Turkey and the Middle East – while over the centuries it has been conquered by the Persians, Romans, Venetians, Ottomans and the English.
They each left their mark on the local dishes.
Koupepia, which consists of vine leaves stuffed with rice or with added aromatic minced meat, is a dish that was originally transported here by the Ottomans 500 years ago.
It was called Dolmades, which to this day is still its most widely known name, but the Cypriots adapted it to include freshly grown grapevine leaves.
The simple and delicious Mediterranean diet utilises fresh ingredients bursting with plenty of nutrients, hailed by experts as one of the healthiest diet in the world. Locally sourced ingredients include vegetables, pulses, grains and plenty of fruit.
Grown in abundance around the countryside you’ll see watermelon, oranges, strawberries, grapefruit, tangerines, melons, apples, pears, cherries, figs, bananas, grapes and dates. These are then transported to your plate in delicious and healthy dishes.
You might walk by a charming citrus fruit grove or get a whiff of the aromatic herbs grown all around. Other popular ingredients include goat’s cheese, capers, nuts, and honey, which is often utilised in many of the delicious desserts.
Sourced locally, pork is the all-time favourite meat of most locals. A typical dish served in many restaurants and tavernas is the hearty Afelia – pork braised in red wine sauce with mushrooms, potatoes, coriander seeds and cumin.
Bursting with flavour, it’s usually served with Pourgouri – Greek bulgar wheat with coriander, paprika, dried mint and olive oil – with a side order of salad.
If you love a good kebab, you’re in luck. Look out for souvlaki shops, which serve predominantly pork kebabs but also chicken and lamb. Enjoy them in a pitta bread with freshly cut salad and tzatziki, or served on a plate.
Another popular meat dish is Sheftalia pork and lamb sausage, which is cooked on a charcoal barbecue, helping infuse the meat with the spices.
If you’ve been to Greece, or to a Greek restaurant in the UK, you’ll no doubt have tried mezzes. These small dishes are great for sharing, and are also popular in Cyprus. Many will also be familiar with halloumi, the island’s most famous goat’s cheese, which is most often served warm and grilled.
Other popular dishes include houmous – a chickpea and tahini dip that originates from Egypt, Tzatziki – a mix of Greek yoghurt, cucumbers and dill or mint, and Taramasalata fish eggs. These truly delicious dishes are nothing like those you’d buy in containers at your local supermarket back in the UK.
Traditional fishermen will habitually take their catch of the day to the restaurants and tavernas on the island.
Grilled sardines make a simple and tasty snack, usually accompanied by Pourgouri, which is made from pasta and bulgar wheat. While, one of the more substantial catches is grouper fish, which is a little dearer than the majority of other fish, but it’s extra tasty too.
Another option is calamari – deep fried squid rings – which is great when eaten with a local beer. And if you’re in the mood for something really exotic try octopus, a selection of which might be on display outside the restaurant.
Rounding your meal off with a sticky dessert
Apart from fresh fruit offerings, the desserts here are on the sticky side, packed with with nuts and sugared with honey. Particularly popular are the Loukoumades – small ‘Greek’ donuts with honey and nuts, and Galatopureko or Baklava – sweet cakes also made with honey and nuts.
Of course, there’s Turkish delight, or Lokum, to indulge in, which you’ll find throughout the island. The best beverage to go with it is strong Cypriot coffee, though if you’re feeling adventurous the anise-flavoured Ouzo spirit always goes down well.
Don’t leave this lovely island without trying one of the most popular sweets here. Soujoukos is made with almonds or walnuts, which are soaked and strung onto thin cotton then dipped in a grape jelly to solidify it. You’ll see it hanging up all over Cyprus.