No visit to Cyprus is complete without enjoying the traditional meal of many small dishes known as ‘meze’.
This large feast, which has been a popular part of the Cypriot culture for many centuries, is more of a social event than a formal meal, with many dishes shared around the table with family and friends.
What is included in the meze varies widely from each restaurant and tavern, and largely depends on what is in season and whether you are ordering a meat meze, fish meze or a mixed meze. Typically there should be around 15-20 dishes, including the dips and bread, but some places may include up to 30 dishes.
Generally, the meal begins with olives and various dips, such as yoghurt, Tahini (sesame seed dip), Skordalia (potato and garlic dip), Taramosalata (fish roe dip), and Tsatziki (cucumber and mint dip), all served with a basket of fresh bread and a bowl of crisp village salad.
Thereafter, you might enjoy more common dishes such as grilled Halloumi cheese and Lountza (cured pork loin), or more unusual selections such as wild asparagus and other greens cooked with eggs.
If you are having a meat meze, then you can expect grilled meats such as pork chops and barbequed chicken and pork, alongside spicy Loukanika sausages, kleftiko and delicious stewed dishes such as Stifado and Tavas. In a fish meze, a variety of locally caught fish is served grilled and fried, including small-fry, sea bream with olive oil and lemon dressing, cuttlefish, calamari and octopus.
In the more traditional establishments, you may be offered watermelon, sweet pastries or preserved sweets (‘glyko’) to round off the meal.
So, ‘kopiaste ke kali orexi’, which means ‘welcome, and bon appetite’, you will soon fall in love with the social way of eating that the authentic Cypriot meze offers!
Courtesy of the CTO