If you travel through the history of Cyprus you will discover that this island was conquered and influenced by many civilisations. Such a turbulent history has enriched the island’s culture, and as the result, has added to its traditional cuisine a unique taste. Today Cypriot traditional cuisine represents a splendid mixture of dishes which origins can be found in the Middle East, the Mediterranean, and Southern Europe. Even the British who ruled the island till 1960, contributed to the culinary preferences of Cypriots.
The Cyprus traditional cuisine is very nutritious and consists only of natural products. It is believed that Cypriot meals are healthy as they contain manly vegetable fat and are usually cooked on olive oil. The main ingredients are lamb, chicken, fish, vegetables, fruit, yogurt, cheese and of course different spices: oregano, thyme, cinnamon, pepper, caraway, parsley and garlic. Spices and herbs are abundant, but used so wisely so that they only intensify the natural taste of a product or the meal as a whole.
Fruit and vegetables are always fresh, as most of them are delivered from the local villages all year round. Cyprus is famous for its citrus gardens which bring juicy oranges, mandarins and grapefruits; strawberry which can be enjoyed from January to November; apples, pears, watermelons, melons, grapes, and figs.
The most famous traditional meal of Cyprus is “meze”, an abbreviation for “mezedes” (Greek). It is a kind of a calling card of every restaurant, which will give you the best idea of what Cypriot traditional cuisine is. Every chef decides himself what should be included in meze but it is certainly the first meal you should try upon arriving in Cyprus.
Meze traditionally consists of as many as 20-30 cold and hot dishes, served one after another in a strict consequence. They include hors d’oeuvres: fresh and pickled vegetables, olives, smoked and spicy meat, “halloumi” (local cheese made from sheep’s milk), “Tzantziki” (yogurt with cucumbers, garlic and mint), “melintzanosalada” (aubergines with spices), “hummus” (muss made from yellow peas with olive oil and parsley), popular Greek salad which is a mix of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and feta cheese. The main part of the course is fried and baked meat, or seafood dishes. In the end of the course you will try all kinds of fresh fruit available for the season, traditional sweets, and a cup of coffee.
Cypriots like cooking on the grill, and it can be not only meat but also vegetables, cheese, and fish. This fact has had a great influence over local cuisine, and you will find a lot of dishes prepared over charcoal in the menu of the restaurants. Baked dishes are another passion of Cypriots. Be sure it will become yours as well!
It could be strange but one of the distinguishing peculiarities of Cypriot cuisine is soups. There are different kinds of them served in restaurants: the traditional soup “aygolemono” from egg’s yolk, lemon, rice and chicken, chicken soup, clear beef soup, and “traxana” soup.