Because of the influences from other cultures over time, there isn’ t any dish, which we would call ‘Cypriot’ only. However with little variations from their originals Cypriots have developed quite tasty dishes. Each dish has a peculiar taste and cooking and presentation reflects the character of the people of Cyprus. ‘ Molehiya ’ Arab in origin, has developed completely, appealing to Cypriot taste both in preparation, taste and presentation. Some dishes even vary from region to region in name, preparation and taste. Northern Cyprus is fascinating and appealing to people who eat well and enjoy eating.
A great variety of vegetable dishes, grills, pastry, fish, soups, kebabs, lahmacun, pides are to name but a few. A big list of mezes, sweets, cakes, eaten either as starters or as afters can be named. In addition to local cuisine Chinese, Italian, French and Indian foods are well represented in various restaurants.
Meze is the Turkish word for hors-d’oeuvres. In many of the village restaurants food nwill start arriving on the table soon after you sit down; this means that there is a set menu and these will be the meze ‘starters’.
Anyone who visits North Cyprus or has a meal in a Turkish Cypriot home, regardless of the success of the particular cook, is sure to notice how unique the cuisine is. Main courses normally include mixed type of meets or fish.
Meats grilled over charcoal are known as şiş, named after the skewers on which they are prepared. Most common are lamb chops, grilled chicken, seftali kebap, but also grilled helim cheese, and mushrooms, are unique to the Turkish Cypriots.
Desserts and Pastries
An old Turkish saying advises one to “eat sweetly and speak sweetly”. Sweets and desserts have always been an important and distinctive element of Turkish Cypriot cuisine. Altogether there are about 25-30 basic recipes for desserts known but with the addition of local variations the number becomes enormous.
North Cyprus produces wine, brandy sour, and bear. These are both light, fruity, and palatable and are perfect accompaniment to the local dishes. There are also the favorite traditional, nonalcoholic drinks; Ayran and Turkish coffee.
Frequently used ingredients are fresh vegetables such as zucchini, green peppers, okra, green beans, artichokes, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and grape leaves, and pulses such as beans, broad beans, peas, black-eyed beans, chickpeas and lentils. Pears, apples, grapes, oranges, Mandarin oranges, nectarines, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, figs, watermelon, melon, avocado, citrus, lemon, pistachio, almond, chestnut, walnut, hazelnut are some of the commonest of the fruits and nuts.
The best-known spices and herbs include pepper, parsley, arugula, celery, fresh coriander, thyme, and oregano. Traditionally, cumin and coriander seeds make up the main cooking aromas of the island. Mint is a very important herb, and it grows abundantly, and locals use it for everything, particularly in dishes containing ground meat. For example, the North Cypriot version of pastitsio (makarna fırında) contains very little tomato and generous amounts of mint. The same is true of köfte (meatballs), which are sometimes laced with mint to provide a contrast with the meat. For Turkish Cypriots potato is also often used in making köfte. Fresh coriander is another commonly used herb. It is often used in salads, olive breads, spinach pies (ispanak böreği) and other pastries.