A Culinary Guide to Cyprus
Like Cyprus itself, Cypriot food has a long history and many influences. It is similar in many ways to Greek and Turkish food, although there are some specifically Cypriot dishes. Many Cypriots still grow their own food and keep animals: eating fresh, home-made dishes is part of the way of life on the island.
The locals are fiercely proud of their culinary heritage, and you’ll often find local dishes alongside the pizzas and sandwiches in international tourist restaurants. Of course, the best places to sample Cypriot food are small village tavernas, off the tourist trail.
Cyprus produces a wide range of foods. Olives can be seen growing all over the island, as they can elsewhere in the Mediterranean, and are a staple crop. Fresh vegetables, fish and shellfish, and meats of all kinds are all common on Cypriot tables. Here are some of the best local dishes:
Found across Greece and Turkey as well as Cyprus, meze is a classic meal that really sums up the cuisine in this part of the world. A good meze will contain various different elements – expect up to 20 different dishes including halloumi or feta cheese, hummus, shrimps, squid, smoked ham, artichokes, cucumber, tomato and vine leaves. It is often accompanied by local wheat-bread. Each taverna will have its own take on the meze – if you’re visiting the island, it is worth trying more than one to compare.
Fasolia is a simple dish of haricot beans in a spicy tomato sauce. It can be eaten alone with bread, or as an accompaniment to meat. It is often served up with some freshly chopped raw onions. You’ll find Fasolia yihani pretty much anywhere you go in Cyprus – it is to Cypriot food what dhal is to Indian.
Red mullet is one of the most commonly found and popular fish found in Cyprus, brought in by local fishermen every day. It can be found served in a number of different ways, often fried with a tomato based sauce. The freshest and best red mullet in Cyprus can be found in small seaside tavernas.
This is a real Cypriot dish. It is found throughout Greece as well, but its origins are said to go back to Cypriot freedom fighters in the nineteenth century. Hiding out in the hills, they stole lamb or goat from farmers, and cooked it in a clay oven to avoid anyone seeing the smoke. The modern version is cooked with spices and served with potatoes and tomatoes, and is incredibly tender. It is a celebration dish in Cyprus, so would be a great dish to try at a local village fiesta.