Food & Drink in Cyprus - Traditional Cuisine
Cyprus has been under the control of many different nations throughout its long history and all of them – Britain, Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Syria, Lebanon, France and Italy – have influenced the island’s unique cuisine.
Cypriots make the most of their fresh produce and the abundant seafood, vegetables, pulses, grains and meat that make up the basis of a regular Cypriot diet.
One of the most famous concepts behind the way Cypriots eat is meze, those famous little plates of just about everything that seem to arrive from the kitchen on to your table in an endless stream. Dining meze-style is a great way to try a wide variety of Cypriot cuisine, but be warned: you’d better start on an empty stomach.
A traditional meze session could include dips like tahini, taramasalata and plenty of bread; lots of olives; spanakopita (a spinach and feta cheese pie wrapped in filo pastry); vine leaves stuffed with rice and meat; yemista (stuffed vegetables with lots of garlic), casseroles and stews, and the famous souvla (chunks of meat threaded on a spit and grilled over charcoal).
Cyprus has a dry, sunny climate which allows a lot of produce to thrive – among them lots of herbs, figs, dates, almonds, olives and beans. Tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and avocados grow all over the island and form the basis of a lot of Cypriot dishes. You’ll find all sorts of fresh fruit in markets and on menus around Cyprus, as the summer months bring black cherries, apricots, grapes, peaches and nectarines, and green and purple figs.
Halloumi is the famous traditional white cheese of Cyprus which has been made on the island for hundreds of years from sheep’s milk. Halloumi is extremely versatile and is eaten in Cyprus grilled, fried (in slices as part of a cooked breakfast), in salads, and stuffed inside ravioli.
Lamb and beef are popular all over the island but pork is only eaten on the Greek side, due to the religious beliefs of many Turkish Cypriots. Goat and chicken are also popular. Cypriots are lucky to have plenty of seafood year-round from the Mediterranean, and their dishes include sardines, calamari, octopus, whitebait, sea bass and swordfish.
Cypriots drink a lot of strong, sweet coffee in kafenio, their local coffee shops. Coffee is normally served with a glass of water on the side.
Wine has been produced in Cyprus for thousands of years – there’s proof of Cypriot winemaking dating back to 2000BC. The island is famous for Commanderia, a sweet dessert wine. Or if you’re feeling a little more adventurous you can order a brandy sour down in the local taverna – made from Cyprus brandy, lemon juice, bitters and soda water.