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Cyprus - Food and Drink
Specialities in Cyprus
In the southern region, the cuisine is mostly Mediterranean, generally turned towards fish and pork dishes such as the famous souvlaki kebab.
In the northern region of Cyprus, the cuisine is Turkish, and lamb replaces pork in all grills, soups and stews. The majority of people living in the north are settlers from Anatolia, so dishes like meaty kebabs dominate the menu. The most common dish for both north and south is the mezze, a rambling meal of dips, snacks and tasty small dishes, which unquestionably includes houmous and halloumi, served in both regions of Cyprus.
• Afelia – Greek Cypriot stew of pork marinated in wine and ground coriander seeds.
• Kleftiko ofto – lamb on the bone, which is slowly roasted with herbs in a sealed clay oven.
• Halloumi – a Cyprus cheese, kneaded by hand and then grilled.
• Dolmades – preserved vine leaves, stuffed with meat and rice.
• Stifado – a casserole of beef cooked with wine, vinegar, onion and spices.
• Souvlaki – the ubiquitous pork kebab of Greek Cyprus.
• Seftalia – seasoned pork rissoles, grilled in a skin of caul fat.
• Imam bayildi – aubergines stuffed with tomato and onions, which is the Turkish Cypriot favourite.
• Adana kebabs – minced lamb with herbs and red pepper, grilled on metal skewers, that comes from the Adana region of Turkey.
• Tava – a tasty baked stew of lamb, cumin, onions and potatoes.
It is good to know that dinner is the most important meal of the day and locals rarely eat before 8:00 pm. There's a variety of restaurants located in the old parts of Lefkosia, Larnaca, Limassol and Girne, where authentic cuisine can be enjoyed.
When it comes to tipping in Cyprus, a 10% service charge is generally added to all bills, and tipping is discretionary.
A typical Cypriot dinner mostly starts with some appetizers, dips, and salads, followed by main dishes that are mostly meat-based. It ends with dessert and traditional strong coffee that’s brewed right on the island.
This is the traditional selection of hot and cold appetizers. Meze is basically Cyprus’s equivalent of tapas. It can also include Mediterranean specialties like Tzatziki, which is a yogurt dip made with garlic, cucumber, and olive oil; Tahini, which is a paste of crushed sesame seeds, olive oil, lemon, and garlic; Taramasalata, which is a type of fish roe mixed with pureed potatoes, olive oil, lemon juice and onions; Hummus, which is the traditional pureed chickpea and tahini dip; and finally Halloumi, which is grilled and spiced soft goat or sheep’s cheese.
A selection of homemade deliciously prepared kebabs is quite traditional fare in Cyprus. Kebabs are mostly chunks of meat—such as lamb, pork, chicken, and fish—that are cooked on a skewer and seasoned with olive oil, oregano, and lemon. Kebabs are usually served with tzatziki and pita bread.
Souvlaki, or "souvla" as the locals call it, is thin sliced meat pieces, mostly lamb, pork, chicken, or beef, which is served on top of pita bread with a pickled salad, hummus and tzatziki.
Kleftiko is a traditional lamb dish which is usually baked in a kiln and cooked for a minimum of 24 hours in a clay oven, so it can slowly marinate in a mixture of cinnamon and lemon juice.
Stifado is a fragrant stew which is made with rabbit and sometimes beef that’s simmered in wine, vinegar, onions, and popular Greek spices like garlic and oregano.
Moussaka is a widely enjoyed Mediterranean casserole, which is baked layers of eggplant and lamb, covered in béchamel sauce.
These are appetizers and Greek delicacies that showcase minced meat, mostly a mixture of lamb or pork, with white rice which is daintily wrapped in steamed grape leaves.
Ekmek kadayif is a popular Cyprus dessert, quite similar to bread pudding. For all those who love honey to satisfy their sweet tooth, a slice of kadeifi, baklava or galatopureko, which are all sweet cakes made with honey and nuts, can be a real pleasure.
Ouzo is a famous Greek and Cypriot traditional drink, which is made by the double distillation of selected dry wines blended with seeds of anise. Another drink that is often offered on the island is Raki, which is a local aniseed-based alcoholic beverage.
Drinks in Cyprus
The coffee on this island is traditionally strong due to the fact that it’s made from fresh Brazilian coffee beans which are boiled to form a frothy cream, known as "kaimaki", on the top. Local people who like it sweet drink it in small cups with dissolved sugar, also called sweet "glikis", while others simply take it medium sweet. Those who love the different flavor take "metrios", while the bravest drink it "sketos", without sugar.
The tradition of making wine in Cyprus wines is amongst the world's oldest, dating back to 2000 BC. Nowadays there are over 100 varieties of grape cultivated in Cyprus, and most of the vineyards are located in the Limassol and Paphos districts, but there are also some on the foothills of Mount Olympus. The most famous Cypriot wine is called Commandaria, made from the Nama grape variety. It dates back a few hundred years.
The beer in Cyprus usually comes under one name: KEO. It is an extremely popular beer that regularly wins prizes in various world beer competitions. When it comes to strong drinks, Cypriots make Zivania, which is a strong drink similar to Raki and usually served cold, and Cyprus Brandy, which is a drink of high quality. Probably the best known Cypriot brandy is Five Kings.
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