The Cypriot cuisine is characterized by many different influences, which reflects the course of history during which the island was occupied by various foreign nations. So apart from the obvious Greek and Turkish components, Cypriot dishes bring together oriental, Italian and British culinary elements. One could even go as far as to call it fusion cuisine.
The best way to indulge into Cypriot cuisine is to order the traditional meze, a variety of dishes which can be enjoyed in quantities for everyone to share. But beware, true authentic Cypriot food are not served at the much crowded touristy restaurants. They should be made with the best and freshest ingredients and of course, with love. So do your research before booking a restaurant.
As a rule, every meal starts with olives, bread and a choice of dips, such as Talattouri (made of yoghurt, cucumber, lemon juice and garlic) or Tahini, which is the typical Cypriot dip and consists of sesame paste, garlic, lemon juice and water. This is traditionally followed by salads, often with fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and feta cheese, and of course, the island’s most important culinary product: Halloumi cheese.
Made from sheep and goat milk, Halloumi cheese is a Cypriot specialty and produced according to a particular, centuries old method. What makes Halloumi special is that it does not melt when heated, so it can be grilled or fried. Enhanced with a hint of mint, Halloumi also makes for a delicious ravioli filling.
Salad and Halloumi are followed by meat. Lots of it! Despite being an island, traditional Cypriot cuisine is not all that big on fish and seafood. The exception to the rule: Cattle fish, octopus and fresh calamari usually served grilled. And then there is the meat: Afelia (pork cooked in red wine), Chiroméri (cured goat’s meat), Lountza (a type of smoked pork), Paidakia (lamb cutlets), Scheftalia (minced pork rissoles in a caul fat wrapping), Stifado (goulash in a cinnamon- and caraway-spiced tomato sauce), Souvla (barbecue skewers) and Souvlaki (small pieces of grilled meat). And of course Ofto Kleftiko, the national dish, which is lamb or goat roasted in its own natural juices in a traditional clay oven with potatoes. Pita bread is also essential to accompany all these. Cypriot pitta is almost twice the size of its Greek cousin and is not greasy, thus healthier.
After indulging in meze, dessert is usually limited to an intake of vitamins and seasonal fruit like oranges or tangerines straight from the tree or watermelon in the summer. You should definitely try watermelon with halloumi. The sweet and salted combination is divine!
Sweet-toothed foodies may choose to have a piece of Cyprus Delight with their coffee. Cyprus Delight is a jelly-like sweet available in a variety of flavors (favorites are lemon, grapefruit and bergamot).