Tasting South-Western Cyprus: A Culinary Journey To Paphos

No journey to a new, distant place is complete without having experienced the culinary side of it. If youwant to fully embrace a destination, there is no way around trying local,tradition delicacies. They say you should experience a place with all yoursenses - taste is definitely adding to a more intense cultural experience. Paphos is a port at the south-western coast of Cyprus and the capital of Paphos District, one of the six Cypriot districts.

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It’s a city where history and modernity meet and Mediterranean taste and Middle Eastern ingredients merge. People also believe this to be the birthplace of the Greek goddess Aphrodite. Although certainly known, this is one of the lesser traveled destinations. Yet, you’re missing a culinary delight if you have not been to this part of Cyprus before. Flights to Paphos are affordable; watch out for special deals. Ready, set, go! Let the culinary journey begin.

Indulge in Food Influenced by Different Cultures

Cypriot cuisine is very diverse. It is influenced by various cultures and thus the Greek, Turkish, Middle Eastern and Italian cuisines. Various forms of olives, all sorts of grains, fresh fruits and vegetables as well as local seafood form the basis of many meals and thus dishes get a Mediterranean touch. Additionally, nuts, goats’ milk and potatoes are used frequently. Meals are generally nutritious and healthy. Although they can certainly be filling, the Cypriot cuisine is said to bring you rather light foods that don’t lie heavy on your stomach. Appetizers, main dishes and desserts are common and Cypriots enjoy feasting together.

Start with Special Appetizers

The most common meal is meze. It’s a mix of Greek mezze and Spanish tapas and it literally means ‘small dishes’. You can order a few as appetizers or several ones to make it a whole meal. One meze can consist of up to twenty appetizers allowing you to try a bit of everything while dining the Cypriot way. People like to share and socialize and so meze is the ideal dish. There is an array of foods you can choose from but generally, all kinds of vegetables are served such as peppers, artichokes and olives. The latter come in a coriander seed dressing. Stuffed vine leaves (koupepia) are also common and so are other stuffed vegetables (yemista). Cheese lovers will enjoy the fried halloumi either made from cow, goat or sheep’s milk as well as the feta or kaskavalli. As for meat, chicken and ham are usually what’s on. You can also try sheftalia, a special sausage made of lamp, onions, pork and special herbs. Seafood fans will love prawns, calamari or taramasalata, which is fish roe pureed with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Typical dips are tahini, sesame seeds with garlic, olive oil and lemon, as well as hummus. Tzatziki is probably the most well-known dip made of garlic yoghurt, cucumber, olive oil and pepper. If you like it spicy, go for the tirokafteri, a hot cheese dip. Bread is served on the side.

Try Popular Cypriot Dishes

Meat is very popular in Cyprus. Traditional non-vegetarian dishes are souvlaki, grilled pork or lamp kebabs that come with pita and a tzatziki, as well as afelia, which is pork cooked in red wine with potatoes, coriander seeds and mushrooms. Furthermore, a simple but common meal is stifado. This is beef stew seasoned with onions, special herbs and tomatoes. Also very common is moussaka consisting of baked lamb, fresh tomatoes and eggplant. An all-time favorite is as special version of lamb that is cooked in a clay oven for about one day and sprinkled with cinnamon and lemon juice (kleftiko) for a certain taste. Dry goat meat in wine and coriander seeds is another speciality. However, there are also tasty vegetarian options in form of meze as mentioned before. You could also try fasolada - fresh vegetables and white beans in olive oil. If you fancy a salad, go for the horiatiki salata. The core ingredients are olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers and feta cheese. What’s missing? There’s no lettuce but you’ll have plenty of olive oil and vinegar.

Choose From a Range of Typical Desserts

For many of us, dessert is the best part of a large meal, am I right? Therefore, you won’t be disappointed when in Paphos. You have the chance to choose from a range of different cakes, sweets and fruits. A special culinary delight is loukoumades resembling mini doughnuts sprinkled with honey. Moreover, Cypriots seem to love very sweet cakes. Ideally, try all of them. Types of cakes you’ll be offered are melomakarona - honey cake -, kourabiedes - almond cake with frosting -, and finikia - walnut cake. If you’ve actually had enough to eat, get those vitamins in as fresh fruit is always on the menu. Watermelons, tangerines, apples, grapes, bananas, figs - due to the Mediterranean climate, there’s a great variety of fruits. Another local dessert is glyko, preservers of cherry, apricot, dates or almonds usually served with a glass of iced-cold water. Finish off your meal the sweet way. 

Be Curious and Go for a Traditional Drink

People believe that Cyprus is where the world’s oldest wine - the commandaria - comes from. It’s a rather sweet dessert wine complementing a traditional Cypriot dish. If you need a pick-me-up, you should try their coffee. Drink it the natural way - very strong - if you’re brave or have it very sugary if that’s what you like better. Whatever you’re preferred way of drinking Cypriot coffee, you’ll sure be wide awake afterwards. If you travel to Paphos in the hot summer months, airani will become your best friend. It’s a yoghurt drink with a special cooling effect. For those of you in need of a good digestive, order a small glass of zivania. But be warned, this spirit made from grapes is extremely alcoholic; a few sips will do the trick. Less intense is ouzo. You should also try the local beer called KEO. A frappe - iced coffee with or without milk - is ideal for a few relaxed hours in the sun.

If you have not visited Paphos before and especially enjoy culinary delights when traveling, this is an ideal destination for you. You can choose from a range of local foods and try different traditional dishes. Whether you like meat, fresh vegetables of all kinds or the sweetest of desserts – Cypriot Paphos should be on your list of destinations.

Thank you, Thomson (TUI), one of the UK’s leading travel agencies.