Northern Cyprus Cuisine
Perhaps the biggest surprise among tourists who have not been to the Mediterranean countries can be a large amount of meze (appetizers) on the table. Meze in Northern Cyprus is a set of 10-15 cold and hot appetizers that are served before the main course. Cold snacks include hummus, dzhajik (yogurt with chopped cucumber and dried mint), chakizdez – Cypriot olives with coriander, chichek dolma – stuffed zucchini and zucchini flowers, green salad and much more. Among meze, you can also find Turkish dolma – grape leaves stuffed with rice. Olive oil and olives themselves in various marinades are indispensable attributes of any meal in Turkish Cypriot houses and restaurants.
One of the traditional meze, which is also served for breakfast, is the local Halloumi cheese (Helim), which is often fried in a pan or grill. In the hot season, Turkish Cypriots serve this cheese with a chilled watermelon. Hot appetizers are fried lamb liver, bulgur cutlets stuffed with fried minced meat, a traditional pide fried on charcoal with basturma, grilled mushrooms.
Since Cyprus is an island nation, fish and seafood should occupy an important place in local cuisine. But it is not. First of all, this is due to the expensive cost of seafood. The local population prefers Turkish cuisine, rich in varieties of kebabs from beef, lamb, and chicken. As in Turkey, there are several varieties of kebab. But among them, there is also a special, local type of kebab, which can be tasted only in Northern Cyprus – “Sheftali-kebab” (peach kebab). But it has nothing to do with peaches. “Sheftali-kebab” is a Cypriot sausage made from lamb (or chicken) minced meat, onions, parsley, and various spices. Juicy sausages served with lemon, yogurt, and a garnish.
Another traditional dish in Cyprus is called “Fyryn kebab” (kleftiko-kebab). It is made from large pieces of lamb, baked in the oven with potatoes, onions, and spices, and served on a table with yogurt, onions, seasonal salad with crushed wheat pilaf.
While considering traditional drinks on the island, Turkish coffee is popular, which is boiled in the sand. When making coffee, sugar is added immediately to the coffee, therefore, when ordering, you must mention whether you will drink sweet or not. Adding sugar separately is not accepted. Coffee is served with a glass of cold water to clean off the flavor of the strong coffee grounds. Fortune telling is also very popular; island residents predict each other’s future, seeing special signs at the bottom of the cup.
By popularity, only tea can compete with coffee. They drink it here from small glasses in the shape of a tulip. The special shape of the glass does not allow the tea to cool quickly while staying comfortable for holding it in hand.
Another popular refreshing drink is Ayran. This is a sour-milk drink that quenches thirst. Locals usually drink it on hot days and sometimes add mint. Ayran also perfectly satisfies light hunger and is very useful for digestion.
The most famous alcoholic drink is “Raki” or anise vodka. One part of anise vodka is bred with three parts of cold water, and when mixed, the drink turns out to have whitish color, reminding of milk. The legends say that because of the color the drink was called “lion’s milk”. Why? Probably because the drink has great strength and only lions can drink it. Turkish-Cypriots drink Raki in large companies accompanied by meat or fish main courses.