Have you tasted Cyprus food? If you haven’t, any ideas what it may look like?
Cyprus food is a mixture flavor of Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. It is generally healthy and not spicy. At first we felt the taste was a bit too plain as we used to hot and spicy Asian food. Most Cyprus foods also are grilled (roasted or barbecued) and oven-baked, and usually it is served with olive oil, fresh lemon, and fresh (green) vegetables as delightful salads. If in Indonesia or Asia in general, chilly are available in household tables to accompany every meal, in Cyprus, it is the olive – pickles or the olives oil – is particularly of abundance in all Cyprus food.
Bread, cheese, tomatoes and cucumber are often eaten for breakfast. The Souvlaki (grilled chicken/other meats) with salad and bread or potatoes are typical Cypriot lunch. They usually having lunch around 1.30 – 2.30 PM and dinner starts around 9.00 PM. We had lost of experiences when we came to the restaurant for dinner around 6.00 – 7.00 PM, usually there is only few customers (or even only us). Even some Cypriot Restaurants only opens starting at 7.30 pm and usually most customers come after 9 or 10 pm. Dinner is the main meal for Cypriot and it is also a part of social and cultural/family life.
Here, we’d like to share some traditional Cypriot dishes that we’ve tasted. Due to big variety of Cypriot food, we only limit our list to top 10 dishes. Also we’d like to share the 5 top Cypriot’s drinks and desserts that we see are the most popular in Cyprus (and international). You may consider to sample these lists when you come to Cyprus.
Meze means “small dishes.” A style of eating that has many different dishes – up to 20 or more dishes – but only a little of each item. It’s the perfect introduction to Cypriot food as Meze usually includes savoury dips, vegetables and a wide range of fish and meat dishes cooked in several different ways. The details of what will you get in Meze, including those explained below. Meze is served one by one until all parts are served. So make you sure you eat each slowly so that you can still enjoy the final part. For us, sometime a ‘complete’ meze is a bit too much hence it is common to order only some part of the mezes that you like most.
2. Souvla and Soulaki
Cypriots are mastered on the barbecue and their favourites and popular meat dishes are souvla/souvlaki. Souvla is large piece of meat in long skewer while Souvlaki is a little skewer just like “Sate/Satay” in Asian food. The souvlaki is usually pork, but could be also chicken or lamb. This dish is usually served with flat-bread or pita-bread and salad. Every corner in Cyprus from towns to villages has traditional souvlaki shops.
This is the top cheese in this island, made from sheep or goat milk or both, and flavored with mint. It has a sort of rubbery texture and does not melt, so it’s usually grilled, though some people enjoy it fried or raw. Halloumi is common for breakfast but you can find anytime of the day in sandwiches, salads or with fruit particularly watermelon.
Feta is the famous Greek cheese. It’s salty, white, made from sheep’s or goat’s milk that is cured in a brine solution. Usually it is used for salads and or pies.
5. Horiatiki Salata
Horiatiki Salata is other name for Greek salad or country salad or village salad. It is made of tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, feta cheese, olives, olive oil, and vinegar – but no lettuce.
Moussaka is a layered of eggplant and lamb, covered in béchamel sauce, which is a white sauce made with butter and flour cooked in milk.
Sheftalia is a grilled Cypriot sausage oval shaped sausage made of pork, lamb, onions & parsley and wrapped in caul fat. Caul fat is the membrane that surrounds the stomach and is transparent. It’s yummy, but yeah, not that healthy if you it too often.
Keftedes is Cypriot meatball made from minced meat (lamb or beef or pork or mixed), grated potatoes and chopped parsley and mints, also cinnamon to spice.
9. Cyprus dipping sauce
Tzatziki : A cold yoghurt added with chopped cucumber and mint, dressed with garlic.
Tahini : A pureed sesame seed paste with lemon that can be used as a dip or as an ingredient for other dishes.
Hummus : A mashed chickpeas with tahini.
There are many types of bread in Cyprus but mostly it is not the kind of soft-bread or other variety bread like we had in Indonesia (with chocolate, bananas, etc as fillings).
These are some of Cypriot bread:
Flat-bread or Cypriot Pitta bread : To eat, you slice it and you may fill it with souvlaki and salad.
Koulori : White loaf smothered with sesame seeds in ring –shaped.
Elioti or Olive Bread : basic bread dough added with black olives, dried mint, coarsely chooped, fresh coriander leaves and onions
Varieties of pies: Eliotes – olive pie, Tiropites – cheese pie, Kolokotes – pumpkin pies, etc.
Wine has been enjoyed in abundance on this island and became part of its cuisine, enjoyed with food and as a marinade for meats and seafood. There are many types of wine produced in Cyprus, but the most famous and become Cypriot pride is Commandria. The black sweet wine had been produced since 3000 years ago It’s very nice and quite cheap!
2. Zivania another grape-based drink with an alcohol content that can range from 40- 99 %.
3. Cyprus coffee
Cyprus coffee can be enjoyed at anytime. The traditional coffee of this island is strong and it will be served in small cups accompany by a glass of water. You can order it: Glikos (sweet), Metrios (medium) or Sketos (unsweetened).Usually, it is served with water to neutralize the strong coffee taste.
An iced coffee drink. It is either glykos (sweet), metrios (medium sweet) or sketos (no sugar). It is also ordered with milk (me gala) or without. Cyprus is so proud of its Frappe so to be culturally sensitive, even you do not really like it, when being asked, you can say it has a very unique or interesting taste.
5. Fresh Orange Juice
Cypriots enjoy VERY sweet cakes and pastries flavoring honey, fruits and nuts as desserts though, they are also sometime served with fresh fruit.
To be honest, we do not taste many kinds of traditional Cyprus dessert as we do not really enjoy very sweet flavors in general. Hence, of a ‘proper’ meal (appetizers, main course, and deserts), we usually enjoy most the appetizers and the main course.
But we still have some favorite’s desserts!
1. Loukoumades very sweet, small, Cyprus style doughnuts with honey
2. Baklava very rich, sweet cakes made with honey.
3. Loucoumi small cubes, soft, chewy, icing sugar covered, in many flavors such as rose, mint, lemon, nuts, etc (something similar to Turkish delight)
4. Kourabiedes small almond cakes coated in icing sugar . Kourabiedes is similar to “kue putri salju or snow white cookies” in Indonesia
5. Shoushouko ; made from grape juice and walnut or almond, had rubbery texture.
And finally, here I share the recipe of Souvlaki and Greek salad that you may try in your kitchen. It’s super easy!!
Chicken Souvlaki (adapted from Greekfood.about.com)
(Yield : serve 4-5)
500 gr boneless chicken breast, cut into 2 cm cubes
8 – 10 skewers.
Marinated sauce :
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine (skip if you don’t have)
2 cloves of garlic grated
1 tablespoon oregano
½ – 1 teaspoon salt to taste
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, mix well.
- Stir the chicken cubes and marinated for at least 2 hours, then thread the skewer through the chicken.
- Preheat the grill – charcoal is the best or if you don’t have just use grill pan – to medium-high heat.
- Cook the chicken for about 5 – 10 minutes, turning occasionally to cook all the sides. Adjust the heat if necessary.
- Remove chicken to a serving plate and ready to enjoy.
Greek Salad. (adaptation from Greekfood.about.com)
(Yield : serve 4-5)
1 large red onion
4 ripe tomatoes (cherry tomatoes would be better)
1 green bell pepper
100 gr Feta Cheese*
12 pieces of olives (green or black olive are fine)
Good quality of olive oil
1-2 teaspoon dried oregano to sprinkle.
½ teaspoons salt to taste
- Wash and dry the tomatoes, cucumber, and green pepper.
- Clean off the outer skin from the onion, wash, and dry.
- Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized irregularly shaped chunks, removing the core.
- Slice the cucumber into 1/4-inch slices,
- Slice the pepper into rings, removing the stem and seeds.
- Slice the onion into thin rings.
- Combine the tomatoes, cucumbers, green pepper and onion in a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with oregano, salt, pour olive oil over the salad, and toss. Just before serving, place the feta on top of the salad, either as a slice or crumbled and toss in some olives. Sprinkle the cheese with dried oregano.
KALI OREXI – Enjoy!!!
*Feta cheese is not very common used in Indonesia but you can find it in big supermarkets such as Ranch Market, Farmer’s Market or Carefour and Hypermart. They may sell imported brand but also local brand such as YUMMY. YUMMY produced Fetah Cheese, Fetah Goat and Fetah in Olive Oil