Cyprus Meze is a matter of sharing! Cyprus is a haven for all food lovers and the best way to sample all the local dishes, is trying the Cyprus Meze. In matter of seconds, your table will overflow with more than 30 at least small dishes filled with Cyprus specialities, from fresh salads to delicious dips and main dishes all for you!
Cyprus Cuisine the Old Times
Enjoying the Cyprus meze is a treasured eating experience and a way of life that can be traced back to ancient times. Calorie-rich, the Cyprus cuisine of those times included a lot of vegetables and pulses, grains, nuts and fruit, plus plenty of bread, cheese and yoghurt, olive oil and olives. There was no refrigeration so very little meat or fish was included but these have gradually crept onto the table, further enriching what was already a rich but healthy diet! The Cyprus diet evolved around the lifestyle of those days!
To get an insight into real Cyprus food you should starve yourself for a day or two and then go for the Cyprus Meze. You must do this, firstly with an open mind, as it’s important to try everything – and secondly with loose clothing because there are a lot of things to try.
What’s on the Table
Welcome to the epitome of Cypriot-style entertaining – the Cyprus meze table!
A typical table with Cypriot meze will contain a mixture of hot and cold snacks. It’s a perfect and uncomplicated way to catch up with friends over a few plates of simple tasty food and letting the wine or spirits flow.
What is a Cyprus Meze like?
The Cyprus meze table is a traditional gathering place – warm, inviting, and always casual. It is an atmosphere where the plates are communal, the conversation is spirited, and the pace is leisurely. This style of entertaining encourages people to come and join the party. Tables are pushed together to accommodate newcomers and more plates and drinks are ordered.
Cyprus Meze is all about sharing as I mentioned above and it is more of a social event than a plain old meal. It is the kind of meal that brings people together, and that’s why it’s such an integral part of Cypriot culture- at home and in public. Eating meze is not an appetizer to a bigger meal, it is the meal itself and a great way to explore the many tastes and textures of the traditional Cypriot cuisine.
There is nothing fancy about the way the Cyprus meze dishes are served –the most you will get in the way of garnish or decoration, is a wedge of lemon. You should be aware that there could be up to 30 different dishes heading your way, so it’s a good idea to ask the waiter to serve the meze slowly – otherwise, you may become overwhelmed by the rapid appearance of so many dishes all at once.
It’s tempting to get carried away with these simple starters but hold back. They will be followed by more dishes of vegetables, including green and black olives and salads of beetroot and potatoes. Then come the tender slices of ‘lountza’ (smoked pork loin) and grilled halloumi cheese, followed in quick succession by spicy Cyprus sausages, kebabs and a whole range of other traditional dishes, both vegetarian and meat.
Cyprus Meze will include chicken and pork, liver, meatballs, stuffed vegetables and maybe some made-up dishes such as moussaka. These will be accompanied by pasta dishes including ‘pastichio’ a layered macaroni and meat dish, and halloumi-filled ravioli. A pot of Greek-style yoghurt and a plate of steaming bulgar wheat pilaf will appear accompanied by pork cooked in wine and coriander seeds.
Just when you think you can’t manage another crumb, the signature piece arrives in the form of a huge platter of tender barbecued lamb (souvla), accompanied by a small mountain of roast potatoes.
Your waiter will arrive and quickly clear away the growing pile of plates and dishes and replace it with a very large plate of fresh fruit. What you get depends on the season. In the winter it will be mainly citrus fruits; in the spring there are strawberries, cherries and apricots.
The summer brings watermelons, sweet melons, plums, peaches and nectarines, and in autumn there are grapes of all kinds and the season’s best apples and pears. These may also be accompanied by a plate of ‘glyko’, which are various kinds of fruit and nuts preserved in sugar syrup. You should definitely try the walnuts –glyko karidaki.
Where you go for your best Cyprus meze is also important. In Cyprus, as in almost every country in the world, the best traditional food can be found in the places where the local people eat. So, to get the very best ask a Cypriot. Usually, they will recommend somewhere that’s a little bit off the regular tourist track.
There is no menu as such, just ask for a Cyprus Meze and you will be served with whatever is fresh and in season. What you drink with your meal is entirely up to you – there are no rules, but there are some excellent Cyprus wines and local beers to try, or you could do what the Cypriots do and enjoy your meze with a glass or two of Cyprus brandy – it is light and slightly sweet but beware, it also has a kick, so take care especially if driving. You won’t be looking for too much to eat the following day…unless of course, you have plans to rise at the crack of dawn and spend the day burning calories.
The Fish Meze
Of course, if you prefer the fruits of the sea you can visit one of the many excellent fish taverns and alternatively order a fish meze. This is basically the same procedure but replacing the meat with various kinds of fish, including calamari, squid, octopus, whitebait, prawns, sea bream and red mullet, then finishing with a large charcoal-grilled fish that is served with an enormous dish of golden fries.
Enjoy this mouth-watering culinary experience while in Cyprus! Now that you know everything about the Cyprus Meze, grab a fork and have a seat at the table! Friends and loved ones are getting together for an evening of laughter, drinks, and most of all, plate after plate of delectable Cypriot food.
If you enjoyed this post and tried the Cyprus Meze, please leave me a comment below!
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