5 local foods you’ll find on Cyprus
Cyprus is a small island in the Mediterranean sea. The island is part of the European Union, but territory is divided between Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom. Cyprus is situated close to West-Asia, but is also considered a gateway to Northern-Africa. Because of this special mix of heritages, the food in Cyprus is somewhat close to the food in other countries it is related to, but with unique twists that make it worth trying. Keep reading to find out what dishes you can typically find on the island of Cyprus.
Halloumi is a cheese that has become quite popular among the lactose intolerant. Because this cheese is made with sheep or goat milk, it has little to zero lactose. The cheese is a semi-soft white cheese that tastes best when it is grilled slightly on both sides. Halloumi is often used in salads, served with grains, such as couscous or bulgur, or on a steaming hot burger.
This cheese was probably brought to the island by the Greek, who also use Halloumi regularly in their dishes. You can find Halloumi in traditional taverns, where it is often served as an appetizer, or as a snack combined with dried fruits, nuts, olives, and bread. Learn more about Cyprus with Cyprusnext.com and find out why this dish is so beloved among Cypriots.
This dish has its roots in Greece as well. The Greek word Ofton means baked and Kleftiko means stolen, referring to the Greek guerrilla warriors called Klephts who often stole lamb meat to survive in the mountains. Ofton Kleftiko consists of roasted lamb leg meat, marinated in olive oil, lemon, garlic, and onion. To save the meat juices and preserve the aroma’s, Ofton Kleftiko is cooked in baking paper. The dish is often complemented by baked potatoes and vegetables.
Sheftalies, also known as Sheftalia, are typical Cypriot sausages. The name of this dish comes from Turkish and means peach, because the sausages look like little, juicy peaches. This sausage was first made on Cyprus and remains one of the national dishes of the island. The small sausages are made with minced meat flavored with an original spice mix, and stuffed inside an omentum, or caul fat. They are cooked on a barbecue and often served inside a piece of pita bread topped with salad, lemon, and different dips, such as tzatziki, hummus, or tahini salad.
Traditionally, Pilafi Pourgouri is a great Greek/Cypriot dish to serve as a breakfast or as a side dish. The base of this sweet or savory dish is bulgur, a grain that is often found in the Greek and Cypriot kitchen. The bulgur is cooked into a porridge by boiling it in semi-skimmed milk. After it has turned into a porridge, sugar or honey is mixed in to make it sweet. The Cypriot version of Pourgouri is often savory, because it is cooked with tomato puree, onions and chopped pasta. You’ll often find Pourgouri as a side for meat dishes, such as souvlaki or for seafood.
To end their meal or have something sweet with a nice cup of tea, Cypriots often choose baklava: a dish that brings all cultures on the island together. The origin of the first baklava is unknown, as it is a popular dish in both Greece, Turkey and other Middle-Eastern countries. There are many kinds of baklava, but the most popular one is made by stacking several layers of phyllo-dough. Between the layers of dough, you’ll find crushed nuts, sweetened with honey or syrup. It is baked and cut into bite-sized pieces. Each culture has its unique ways of making baklava, but the Cypriot version has lemon juice and cinnamon incorporated in the recipe.