Cyprus, from Souvlaki to Sheftalia
The Cyprus gastronomy has Mediterranean Sea characteristics and is influenced by several of its neighbouring countries, such as Greece and Turkey. We must never forget that it is a country of contrasts that gathers the cultural and culinary heritage of more than 5,000 years of history. Everything is a true reflection of this amalgam. The influence of Greek and Turkish cuisines is undeniable, with such recognizable products as yoghurt or kebabs. This is how the reminiscences of the culinary tradition of the Middle East can be seen in the mezzes, always present on any Cypriot table. According to the tradition, this dish is a set of up to 30 different dishes with the specialities that have been cooked in a restaurant or a tavern throughout the day.
There are many typical dishes to highlight, and it would be impossible to list them all. In addition to the mezzes, which are served before the meal, we have moussaka (meat and eggplant pie with gratin cheese), kleftiko (lamb simmered in the oven), Tava (lamb cooked with onion), the souvlaki stin pita (a kind of kebab with Turkish influence) and the tzatziki sauce (made with yoghurt and cucumber). Other typical products are the halloumi (cheese-like feta but pressed with mint and curdled in its whey), the Cypriot-style souvlaki, and the sheftalia.
The sheftalia is a typical Cyprus sausage. The filling is usually made up of parsley, onion, salt, pepper, and minced pork or lamb. This tasty mixture is wrapped in caul fat to make small sausages. The sheftalia is traditionally grilled on charcoal for about 30 minutes until cooked through. The result is a rich, well-seasoned sausage.
The Cypriot-style souvlaki, derived from the famous Greek fast-food dish, consists of small pieces of meat grilled on a skewer and an abundance of fresh produce. The pita bread used is thinner and larger than the Greek version, and generally contains a pocket for incorporating the ingredients, rather than wrapping the filling in the traditional way. The meat is commonly pork, lamb, or chicken. However, vegetarian options like mushrooms and halloumi are also sought after. Popular sauces are a feature of the Cypriot version. On the island, they are usually served with lemon wedges, a pickled green pepper, and piccalilli on the side.
As in any Mediterranean country, wine cannot be missing from any table. One of the most popular wines in Cyprus is Commandaria. According to archaeologists and historians, it is the oldest wine in the world. It is ideal to accompany desserts such as baklava (a cake made with nuts and honey) or kataifi with dried fruits, among others.
Going into a traditional Cyprus restaurant and ordering food implies starting a great gastronomic walk. It is only about trying and letting yourself be carried away by the senses.