Cyprus’ cuisine owes a lot to it’s location; the island is located off the coast of modern day Lebanon, below Turkey, and east of the Greek islands. As such, it features a very distinct mix of Greek, Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisine that makes this not just a great destination for the activities, but also an amazing culinary experience. Visitors will be rewarded with deliciously fresh Mediterranean dishes, exotic spices and a tradition of social eating. All of this combines to make Cyprus a great location for any travelling foodie! We’ve put together a list of some of the country’s most iconic foods to help give you a taste of what you might expect when you go eat in Cyprus!
Halloumi (also called Hellim) is a cheese that is local to Cyprus made from goat and sheep’s milk. It is a semi-hard, cheese, and because of its high melting point it is often served grilled or fried. When served fried, this is a truly mouthwatering dish, which is not to be missed if you’re in Cyprus!
Mezze isn’t a single food, but rather a style of eating that is very common in Cyprus, and very fun! Instead of bringing out a single entree or dish, diners are served a variety of small dishes, which run the gamut on tastes and may be any combination of sweet, savory, hot and cold. Eating Mezze in Cyprus is a very social experience, and the dishes are usually brought out one at a time with a lot of chit chat in between!
Koupepia are the Cypriot version of Greek Dolmadakia, a stuffed grape leaf filled with a mixture of rice, meat, onion and tomatoes. This is a great appetizer or snack food, with the sourness of the grape leaves pairing beautifully with the savory filling. Definitely something to try while you’re in Cyprus!
Another dish owing to Greek influence in Cyprus is Souvlaki. This is a simple dish made of meat skewered and then grilled. The meat can be pork or chicken, which is cooked to perfection, then cut into small cubes and finally stuffed into a Cypriot pita. Sometimes it will be topped with a mixture of fresh vegetables like onions, tomato, and parsley and cabbage. It’s a great “fast-food” because it is really quick to prepare, but unlike other quick options Souvlaki is actually a quite healthy snack!
This isn’t a meal, but rather a local drink that is famous in Cyprus. Zivania is a kind of brandy that is distilled from local wine and grape remains. In the hot months of the summer, the drink is served refreshingly cold with sides of grapes and olives, while in the summer it is often served at room temperature or even slightly warm and paired with dried nuts and Turkish delight. While not for the faint of heart (as alcohol content can be as high as sixty percent in some versions of the drink), Zivania makes a great digestif.
Fakes, a Cypriot lentil stew served over rice, is a favorite vegetarian dish on the island. It is a very simple, very healthy, and very delicious dish, popular among locals and visitors alike. Definitely a great way to detox after a night spent drinking too much local Zivania!