Food is a big part of the local culture and an important way of life for most Cypriots. Whether it is a tavern next to the alluring waters of the Mediterranean, or a mountainous retreat near a luscious vineyard, both locals and visitors enjoy discovering the island’s traditional heritage through a delectable dish or a glass of award-winning wine.
With a history of winemaking that dates back centuries, it is no wonder that viticulture is an important part of Cyprus, and the Pafos Region in particular with its wonderful variety of renowned wineries. Whether you choose to nibble on a nut, or pass the time with a handful of roasted sunflower seeds while venturing out, local food, traditional products and genuine Cypriot hospitality are available at every corner. Fresh lemons, delicate citrus blossoms, the smell of freshly baked bread or fermenting grapes from the wine forest, Cyprus boasts a colourful and varied cuisine that is bound to enrich your palette and leave you wanting more.
Located at the crossroads of three continents, Cyprus’ rich cuisines has seen a variety of influences over the past millennia. From Greece, Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, Syria, Italy, France and the United Kingdom, the island’s local cuisine is ultimately Mediterranean.
Time to Visit a Taverna
Defined by the sheer range of various culinary influences, and locally sourced ingredients that make Cypriot food amongst the freshest available, Meze is a culinary journey through appetising little plates made with rich ingredients, warmth and happiness. A staple part of the “tavern” dining experience in Cyprus, meze is a treasured eating experience, complemented by a glass of liquor or locally produced wine.
Accompanied by traditional Greek music, the first of many courses will make its debut on an empty table that will soon become overcrowded. A slice of grilled Cypriot bread with a drizzle of olive oil and oregano, crushed green olives scented with coriander seeds, sizzling halloumi cheese, a platter of dips, a cluster of garlic mushrooms sautéed in fresh cream, and a clutch of aromatic deep-fried meatballs, are merely a series of advertisements before the main feature starts.
This truly unforgettable experience should be enjoyed slowly, or as the Greek Cypriots say, “Siga, Siga.” Although the meze experience tends to differ from tavern to tavern, these bountiful little dishes are prepared for enjoyment in one sitting. Various dips include sauces made from sesame seeds (tahini), salted fish roe (taramosalata), tzatziki, garlic, and spicy cheese. Accompanied with a traditional village salad with delectable feta and watering Cyprus tomatoes, your scrumptious meze saga is about to begin. Whether you choose the fish meze option with its variety of fresh fish grilled to perfection and served with a lemon and garlic butter sauce, or the ever so slightly charred on the outside and tender and succulent on the inside meat variety, the epic meze experience at any taverna is unforgettable.
Your meze journey always ends on a sweet note. Whether a small handful of bite-sized fluffy sweet honey puffs, deep-fried to golden and crispy perfection, pastries filled with cheese and soaked in honey, preserves of almonds, dates, apricots, cherries, quinces or grapes, or a colourful platter of seasonal fruit, the local flavour will always be the high spot of your holiday.
Cypriots cook with less oil compared to other neighbouring countries. The diet is a healthy one, apart from their love of syrup-infused pastries. Fresh and inventive, everything is cooked daily and served with a friendly and generous reception.
Traditional Food & Products
Some of the regional specialities are:
Paskies (Pies with a meat and cheese filling usually made at Easter)
Resi (Pilaf, with wheat and meat as the main ingredient; the meat is slow cooked and stirred well with the wheat to create a velvety smooth mixture)
Pafitiki Pitta (Traditional Cypriot pitta bread)
Pastelaki (Traditional crunchy candy bars made with sesame seeds, peanuts, and carob syrup)
Trachanas (Wheat-based mixture made with sour milk and dried; the dried mixture is then boiled in water to create a thick soup served with cubed halloumi cheese)
Ta Pseftika (Zucchini blossoms stuffed with rice, sometimes with a minced meat and rice mixture)
Koupepia Yemista (Gemista) (Stuffed vine-leaves. This dish is widely eaten particularly at villages engaged in viticulture)
Koulourouthkia me to epsimo (Small, circular-shaped biscuits made with flour and drenched in carob syrup)
Tsamarella (Goat meat dried in the sun, spiced with salt and oregano)
Pissa Pafitiki (Local chewing gum)
Loukoumia Geroskipou (Delectable square-shaped chewy confection made with sugar and almonds)
Agricultural products: The region is well known for its agricultural products such as bananas, citrus fruit, grapes, olives, olive oil and carobs.
The favourable climate and unique morphology of the land are an integral part of Pafos’ farming scene. The region is a main producer of citrus, carobs, olives, and olive oil, including grapes – all of which are distinctive for their regional taste and quality.
Pafos is also renowned for its traditional products such as soujoukos and palouze (sweets made from grape juice) sweet preserved, haloumi cheese and trachanas (wheat soup).
Located east of Pafos, the picturesque town of Geroskipou is home to the island’s Cypriot delight. The town derives it name from the Greek words “Ieros Kipos,” meaning sacred or holy garden. It is believed that the town was once a vast area of beautiful gardens dedicated to Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. Today, the presence of several archaeological sites and medieval monuments in the village and the surrounding area are evidence of its historical significance and make it an interesting attraction for visitors.
There is another reason, however, as to why Geroskipou draws visitors to its unique locale. The town is renowned for its traditional ‘delight’ – a locally-produced chewy confection made with sweet sugar and coated in powdered sugar or shredded coconut. Travellers passing through the village will certainly encounter a variety of gift shops that line the main street of the town, displaying their baskets of colourful boxes filled with “Loukoumia Geroskipou”.
Loukoumia Geroskipou are still made in the same way as they were produced over 100 years ago, however new technology has improved the quality of the sweet, its standards of hygiene, and has helped reduce production costs. Made with sugar, cornflour, star, water, almonds and different fruit essence, the original delight was flavoured with local rose water. Ingredients are boiled together in a large cauldron and stirred continuously for a few hours until smooth and creamy. The mixture is then allowed to cool before various flavours are added, thereafter poured into wooden boxes, and left overnight to cool completely. The final task involves the cutting of the large slabs into smaller cubes, which are then coated with powdered sugar and then boxed and prepared for retail.
Read more about Loukoumia
Loukoumia occasionally include almonds and are available in a variety of flavours:
- Chios Mastic
- Chocolate and nuts
Geroskipou Loukoumi was the first traditional food product of Cyprus to receive approval as a Product of Geographic Indication under EU regulations. This safeguards the sweet, ensuring that no other producer can promote a product under the name ‘loukoumi’ with either Greek or Latin characters. The certification also differentiates all authentic Geroskipos Loukoumia and prevents the production of imitation products of inferior quality.
Cyprus also holds the Guinness World Record for the biggest loukoumi ever made. This was achieved on 17 October 2004, which has since been declared ‘Loukoumi Day’ by the municipality of Geroskipou. Production of the giant loukoumi, made by Aphrodite Delights in collaboration with other confectioners, started two days earlier. Cooks worked for three days to produce a 2,543kg slab of loukoumi, beating the previous record of 2,349kg set in 1997.
Authentic Geroskipos Loukoumia can only be supplied by producers located in Geroskipou, Pafos.