Cyprus is a fascinating island nation located in the Eastern Mediterranean sea. Greece lies on its west, Turkey on its north, and Syria and Lebanon on its east. As a result, the present local cuisines prepared in country have heavy influences from these four neighbors, especially Greece and Turkey. By trying the various Cypriot dishes during a visit to the island, you will experience the extraordinary yet harmonious fusion of culinary traditions in the country.
Finding Traditional Food
Cypriots’ pride in their food heritage is evident in the easy accessibility of traditional dishes. There are quite a number of restaurants that offer traditional Cypriot food all over the island. However, if you want an authentic Cypriot gastronomic experience, then you should dine in tavernas, found in most villages.
A satisfying food-oriented journey must start from somewhere; and the old town of the capital city Nicosia, is a good place to start. This area is filled with quaint restaurants and cafes that offer great food, good music and an enchanting ambiance. You can always go for independent restaurant-hopping or join an organized food tour that introduces you to the best hidden cafes and eateries around Nicosia. Food tours are also conducted in other cities like Limassol and Larnaca. For a big family meal, explore the town of Zygi, in between Limassol and Larnaca. This town is known for its series of restaurants that serve sumptuous meals at reasonable prices.
A typical Cypriot repast can be comprised of freshly baked bread, vegetables, and fresh fruits. If you want to sample a little of everything, then you must try a Meze. It consists of a main dish usually made of fish, chicken or beef, and a surfeit of small portions of side dishes from a wide assortment of salads. Horiatiki Salata is a local salad made of cucumbers, green peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, olive oil, and vinegar; potatoes, eggs, and breads.
Stuffed dishes are well beloved in Cyprus, and the notable ones include Yemista (stuffed vegetables), and Koupepia (stuffed grape leaves). Other specialties include Afelia, a dish composed of pork, red wine, mushrooms, potatoes and coriander seeds; Moussaka, a layered dish of eggplant, lamb, and tomatoes; and Sheftalia, a grilled Cypriot sausage made of pork, lamb, onions and parsley. The most popular Cypriot food is perhaps Souvlaki, judging from the souvlaki shops in every nook and crevice of Cyprus. A Cypriot Souvlaki is usually made of pork, although chicken or lamb is also available. It is served on skewers or in a pita as a sandwich.
Complementing Good Food
No meal is complete without the drinks. Some traditional drinks in Cyprus that go very well with meals are Zivania, an alcohol made from grapes that gives that strong kick and Ouzo, also an alcohol, diluted in 50 percent water.
When visiting the must-try drink is the Commandaria, which is one of the oldest sweet dessert wines of Cyprus. This can be sampled in most vineyards, but the best place to get it is of course from the region where it was first produced, the Commandaria region.
For more wine tasting adventure, you can head out to the Paphos region, which is populated by numerous vineyards including the scenic and highly elevated Kolois Vineyards. Bon appetite!