From its Mezedes and Moussaka to its Shiftalies and its Souflakia, a journey through Cyprus is a gastronomic delight. No visit to this historical island is complete without sampling all of its delectable delicacies, each of which has a history of its own. Here are a few must-try dishes if Cyprus is on your vacation list.
One of the most famous of all Cypriot dishes, Meze or Mezedes is not just a dish but a way of life in Cyprus. Eaten ‘siga’ or slowly and shared among friends, a Meze is comprised of a rich assortment of about 20-30 delicious savories and appetizers that are served in saucer-like dishes. With names such as kaskavalli, koupepia (stuffed vine leaves), seftalia ( home-made sausages), halloumi (a Cypriot cheese) and barbouni (succulent red mullet), each dish tastes as exotic as it sounds. Other savories you can expect when you order a Meze at a restaurant include hummus (chick peas ground with garlic and olive oil) tender snippets of chicken or turkey, shrimp, octopus, celery, green peppers, olives and cucumbers.
A standard dish on every menu, Mousakas is a very popular Cypriot dish, more so in summer. Mousakas can be eaten cold as well as warm and is made from minced beef or lamb covered with sliced potatoes, zucchini or eggplant that are placed in layers. Herbs are blended in to add zestful flavor and the whole thing is covered with a delicious cream.
Skewered pieces of lamb or pork, slow-roasted over a charcoal fire are mixed together with onions and yiaourti ( a delicious local yoghurt) and stuffed into pita bread to make the mouth-watering Souflakia. Also called Kebab, this is often eaten as a meal by itself and is often followed by an abundance of luscious fruits including purple plums, pomegranates, grapes, lemons, tangerines, melons, oranges, bananas and apricots.
Yemista is a versatile dish that includes a variety of stuffed vegetables. They can be eaten cold or hot; as starters or as main dishes. Minced meat flavored with different herbs such as mint or parsley is blended with rice and grated tomatoes and stuffed into aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, courgettes and courgette petals. Among the most famous is ‘Koupepia’; stuffed vine-leaves.
Shiftalies are small charcoal-grilled sausages made of minced meat. Thousands have tried to guess the secret of its unique taste, but the Cypriot’s aren’t telling.
Kleftiko consists of a piece of lamb or goat enveloped in foil and baked in a traditional oven that is kept airtight till the Kleftiko is completely baked. The origin of this dish goes back to the 19th century. The Cypriot freedom fighters who dwelled in the mountains were forced to prepare the stolen meat secretly so that no one could get either see it or smell it. They devised an ingenious way of baking the Kleftiko in specially designed earthenware pottery buried underground and sealed airtight so that no aromas escaped.
Souzoukko consists of strings of nuts that are dipped in heated grape juice till the entire concoction solidifies.