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An A-Z Guide to the Best Cypriot Dishes

Holidaymakers are drawn to Cyprus for a number of reasons from its Blue Flag beaches, bustling party spots and amazing culture. But the biggest draw has to be the Cypriot Cuisine. Cyprus’ mixture of Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern influences offer some of the most flavourful dishes on the planet. So, if you’re after traditional dishes which aren’t easily available at home you have come to the right place. From warm pitta breads to the freshest feta cheese, mealtimes will soon become your favourite time of the day. And the best part is Cyprus has some of the best diet foods so you don’t have to feel guilty about pigging out.

If you happen to love food as much as we do then take a look at our A-Z guide to the most popular Cypriot dishes straight from the heart of Cyprus.

Cypriot Food

Afelia

This simple-to-make dish may not sound very appetising, but trust us it is! The dish consists of pork which is both cooked and marinated in red wine and crushed in coriander seeds.

Beef Stifado

This stew-like dish is made with two main ingredient, lean beef and shallot onions, and during your time in Cyprus you’ll find it on the menu at most traditional tavernas. Think melt-in-your-mouth beef in a thick tomato based sauce combined with a touch of sweetness, which comes from the added shallots, is your stomach rumbling yet? The slow cooker is the secret to perfecting this dish. That’s right – the crock pot is your best friend when it comes to making this dish as you will result in tender tear away meat that promises to excite your taste buds.

Calamari

Fried squid, as we call it in the UK, is a huge part of the Mediterranean diet and a dish that is widely consumed by the Cypriot population. But during your time in Cyprus you’ll find a much fresher and tastier version of the Americanised squid you are used to seeing in fast food chains in the UK. Cypriots often serve calamari in two different ways, cut into rings and fried with a side of tzatziki dip or it is often stuffed with cumin, cloves, rice, and then grilled.

Feta

You can’t go to Cyprus without coming across feta cheese. Feta is a white cheese which is made from sheep’s or goat’s milk and preserved in a brine solution. You’ll find feta in hundreds of Cypriot dishes, but it is perhaps most famous as the key ingredient of the traditional Greek salad.

Gyros

A gyro includes pieces of chicken or pork wrapped inside a warm pitta with tzatziki sauce, tomato and onion. However, a Cypriot pitta differs from a traditional Greek one as the pitta is usually a lot crispier and larger in size.

Halloumi

Made from a mixture of goat’s and cow’s milk, halloumi is Cyprus’ local cheese so you can’t visit this island without it passing your lips. It is typically fried or grilled and is best served in sandwiches, salads, fruit and with the Cypriots’ favourite wine.

Kleftiko

This local lamb dish is made from a few simple ingredient which include lamb, potatoes, oregano, bay leaves and a touch of water or stock. Kleftiko is ideal barbecue food during Cyprus’ warmer months and is the reason why most Cypriots look forward to the summer. The lamb is usually wrapped in foil and baked in special ovens or barbecued, resulting in a dish that can be enjoyed by all.

Loukaniko

This dish is often served as meze, and to most looks like a pork sausage.But you should know by now that Cypriots don’t like their food plain like us Brits, and this Greek sausage is no exception. The sausage combines a whole host of tastes with its orange peel, fennel seed and dry herb seasonings, so don’t be put off by its bland appearance.

Moussaka

Perhaps one of the most famous Cypriot dishes on the list and layered with lamb, aubergines, potatoes, courgettes and béchamel sauce, there’s nothing not to like about moussaka.We know the dish originated in Greece but no one makes traditional moussaka quite like the Cypriots. The Cypriot version differs as they tend to focus on the meat sauce, which often contains added spices, plus the béchamel sauce is usually made with halloumi as this is the Cyprus’ local cheese.

Olives

Although this is not a dish, you will find olives in any traditional Cypriot kitchen. They are often served in salads and pasta, but more often than not olives are marinated and served on their own as an appetiser.

Pitta Bread

There is something about a freshly baked pitta that you can’t find in any British supermarket. Traditional pitta bread in Cyprus usually comes in a pocket style filled with a choice of meat and a range of finely cut salad from tomato, cucumber, cabbage, parsley and onions. In true Cypriot-style the bread is often pre-baked and then grilled before it is finally served. This gives the bread the right amount of crustiness, resulting in the perfect pitta.

Souvlaki

This is the Cypriots version of fast food, and yes we know it doesn’t quite resemble a burger from McDonalds or a bargain bucket from KFC, but it is one of the most popular fast food options in this country. But,the best part is it isn’t unhealthy. Souvlaki is basically small pieces of meat, usually chicken or pork, which is cooked on a skewer with juicy vegetables and often topped off with a drizzle of lemon juice.

Tzatziki

This thick yoghurt texture is typically served as an appetiser. The blend of cucumber, garlic, salt and olive oil was made for a hot climate with its refreshing taste and cooling combination of yoghurt and cucumber. This dip is often served with slices of pitta bread or as side dip with dishes like souvlaki.

Yemista

This is one of the most simplest dishes in the Cypriot food glossary. Ideal for vegetarians this dish is made up of vegetables which are either peppers, tomatoes, courgettes or aubergines and stuffed with rice and herbs. This is later roasted, resulting in a full-bodied treat which oozes flavour.

Images licensed under CC BY 2.0

Loukaniko Lemonato by Nikchick

Olives by CeresB

Tzatziki by Alexander Baxevanis

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