- Christopher Agathangelou
Probably the most famous Cypriot dish, Halloumi’s popularity now extends to many countries throughout Europe and the Middle East. Because of the cheese’s high melting point, it possesses the rare ability to be easily fried or grilled, completely redefining the expectations of ‘grilled cheese’. Distinguishable by its mild salty flavor and rubbery texture, the delicacy has become a favorite among vegetarians and non-vegetarians all around the world. The cheese is produced by combining a mixture of goat and sheep milk before then being set with rennet. This is an unusual practice due to the absence of acid-producing bacteria in any part of the process. Halloumi can also be served cold alongside freshly sliced watermelon, and this is commonly eaten as an appetizer or a dessert in Cyprus.
Koupepia (Stuffed Vine Leaves)
The Cypriot variety of the Dolma uses minced meat, rice, onions, tomatoes and a mixture of herbs. This filling which is then carefully wrapped in fresh vine leaves. A village favorite, this dish can be found commonly throughout Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. Koupepia are usually made in large batches and can be frozen to be enjoyed at a later time. The stuffing of vegetables is a Cypriot tradition which extends beyond vine leaves, with peppers, tomatoes, onions, courgettes and even courgette flowers often being cooked in this manner.
A spin-off from the famous Greek fast food dish, the Cypriot style souvlaki consists of small chunks of charcoal-grilled meat on a skewer, and a large amount of fresh salad filling. The pita bread used is thinner and larger than the Greek version, and usually contains a pocket to hold the ingredients, rather than wrapping the filling in the traditional way. The meat is commonly pork, lamb or chicken. However, vegetarian options such as mushroom and halloumi are also sought after choices. The sauces popular with Greek souvlakis are a rare feature of the Cypriot version. On the island they are instead commonly served with lemon quarters, a pickled green chili pepper and piccalilli on the side.
Sheftalia are a traditional Cypriot type of crépinette, or sausage parcel. The filling is usually composed of parsley, onion, salt, pepper and either minced pork or lamb. This flavorful mixture is then wrapped in caul fat to make little sausages. Sheftalia are traditionally grilled on charcoal for roughly 30 minutes until they are cooked, the final result being a hearty and well-spiced sausage. They are often chosen as the meat option in the aforementioned Souvlaki pittas.
Oven Macaroni (Makaronia Tou Fournou, Pastitsio, Firinda Makarna)
Popularly known in Greece as Pastitsio, the Cypriot version is an emblematic and authentic dish especially popular during the island’s Easter celebrations. Large pasta tubes, béchamel sauce and minced pork are the main ingredients used. Thin curls of anari cheese are often sprinkled on the top to give it a crispy crunch. The dish is usually prepared in a large oven pan. Portions are cut into characterful square pieces, charmingly allowing the layers to be seen upon eating. When being served as a main dish, this Cypriot delicacy usually comes with a side of salad.
Cypriot Loukoumades (Lokmades)
Loukoumades are made by deep frying dough balls, soaking them in honey and then coating them generously in crushed nuts, sesame seeds or cinnamon. Often referred to as honey doughnuts, these sweet treats have a light and spongy texture and are best enjoyed under the shade of a village tree in the heat of a balmy Cypriot summer. Available in specialty coffee shops throughout the country, the dessert is so delicious it has sparked great dispute as to where it actually originates from. Greece, Turkey and Egypt all adamantly laying claims to the dish.
Bamies (Okra In Tomato Sauce)
Okra is most often associated with Indian cuisine, however the vegetable has long been popular in Cypriot and Greek cooking too. Combined with a tomato and onion based sauce, in Cyprus the okra is oven cooked until it goes soft. It is then transferred to a pan containing meat, usually lamb, to enable it to absorb the delicious and aromatic flavors. Both nutritious and delicious, this Cypriot dish is perfect for providing some warmth on a cold winter’s day.
Fakes (Cypriot Lentils with rice)
This vegetarian dish oozes with protein and comprises fried onions, rice and brown lentils. The onions are first caramelized in olive oil before being added to the cooked rice and lentils. Popular side dishes often include olives as well as local Cypriot fried potatoes and tasty smoked sausages.
A staple in every Cypriot kitchen, this simple and healthy dish mainly consists of black eyed beans, and is served with vegetables, oil, salt and lemon. The beans are low in fat while being high in carbohydrates and protein. When growing they are extremely drought tolerant, meaning they can survive even in the extreme heat of the scorching Cyprus summers. Tuna, cucumber and tomato are often served as fresh and flavorful side plates with louvi.
Koubes originate from the Levant region, and are basically a torpedo-shaped croquette. The outer shell is made of bulgar and encases a filling of minced meat infused with middle-eastern spices. These tasty bites are served with lemon wedges, with the zingy zest of the fruit really bringing out the filling flavor. Koubes can be purchased in quaint bakeries throughout the island. They are a popular snack transporting eaters to Middle Eastern marketplaces with just one bite.