Traditional Foods of North Cyprus
The culture of a place is always reflected in its kitchen, and Northern Cyprus is no exception. Cypriot cooking, like its people, is unique. Eating out is popular amongst locals and the choice of cuisine reflects this, combining many wonderful and varied tastes from the Mediterranean, Turkey and the Middle East. In larger towns, a range of international restaurants also offer dishes from around the world.
A typical Turkish Cypriot restaurant meal consists of meze, kebabs (lamb or chicken) or fish, followed by fruit and coffee. Meze is a selection of hot and cold appetizers - the Turkish Cypriot equivalent of Tapas – such as kofte (meatballs), hummus dips, mint yogurt, hellim (goat’s milk cheese). A Turkish Cypriot speciality is the şeftali kebab (peach kebab), made with minced meat, chopped onion and spices, wrapped in lamb fat and grilled. Other mouth-watering dishes include marinated fish and squid - and for dessert, lokma (small doughnuts in syrup), Ekmek Kadayif with Cream (Turkish Cypriot bread pudding) or baklava, as well as freshly-picked fruit such as sweet melon, oranges and figs. Wash your meal down with a glass of rakı (alcoholic aniseed drink), or there are also many good wines, beers and spirits, including the famous brandy sour drink – a cocktail made with brandy, lemon juice and angostura bitters. If you have room, you may want to finish off with a fix of thick Turkish coffee or tea.
Cypriot home cooking is delicious, but is only found in a handful of restaurants in North Cyprus, so do look out for them. Traditional cuisine makes fine use of the abundant fresh fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices in North Cyprus that can be bought and enjoyed in the many farmers’ markets and food festivals, as well as the shops and supermarkets – which means Turkish Cypriot cuisine is also packed with vegetarian dishes such as yalancı dolma (stuffed vine leaves with rice, onions and tomatoes), stuffed peppers and tomatoes, melt in the mouth aubergine dishes, sigara börek (fried white-cheese rolled in pastry), bulgur koftesi (cracked wheat balls) and home made baked beans. Fresh herbs such as wild thyme, calamint, fennel, oregano and sage flourish in the mountains, ready for picking in June.