Greece is known for its contemporary styles and use of olive oil, vegetables, grains, fish, wine and meats. You will also be able to find plenty of traditional ingredients all year round, such as olives, cheese, lemon juice, herbs and yoghurt. Crete has a huge food culture and is renowned for its superb taste-bud tingling ingredients. You simply can’t leave the island without trying a few of these distinguishable dishes, no matter when you visit; summer or Christmas:
Dakos, or Ntakos (sometimes also referred to as Koukouvagia, Koukouvayia or in eastern Crete Kouloukopsomo) is a Cretan meze dish which is made up of soaked dried bread or barley rusk sliced up. It is usually topped with an array of zesty chopped tomatoes, crumbled Greek feta (or mizithra cheese) and topped off with a sprinkle of herbs such as oregano. In many places, they also add olives and peppers. Think of it as a mini pizza, but better… and Cretan!
This is certainly the dish for the adventurer foodie, as the above translated is snails. Often still alive, this Cretan delicacy when cooked how the Cretans do, are a taste like no other. Popular recipes include adding them with beaten wheat, or in a tomato, courgette and potato casserole. They are usually fried or boiled and then fried off with plenty of herbs and flavourings. A speciality in Crete is Cochlioi Boubouristi, where they fry the snail with flour and hot olive oil in a pan, then cover them in wine vinegar and rosemary.
There is surely no shortage of cheese in Crete. The Greek love their cheeses and no wonder because they produce and eat some of the best cheeses in the world. At a usual Cretan gathering, no meal is complete without cheese on the table, with it being consumed at any time of day and even as the main ingredient. Some of the best cheeses you must try are of course Feta, Kefalograviera (a traditional Cretan Gruyere), Anthotiros (Fresh soft and crumbly) and Haniotiko (A milky, soft cheese resembling mozzarella). To complete your cheese to a full and delicious meal, add to a salad!
Moussaka is a dish based on aubergine or potato, and often includes meat and a touch of cinnamon. It is one of the most popular dishes in Crete, and generally all over Greece. You won’t be able to step into a restaurant without spotting it on the menu. It is like a traditional lasagne in ways, as in Crete they include both layers of meat, eggplant, and potato before topping it with a béchamel sauce. The finishing touch to the dish is the baking in the oven to form a crispy, cheesy top. It is usually served in a traditional clay pot.
This is perhaps one of Crete’s most iconic dishes, consisting of pastry parcels being fried delicately in olive oil. Inside these little food gifts is the surprise of sheep’s cheese. The creamy, delicious dish is mainly served as a starter, and comes with a variety of dips. Sometimes (if you’re lucky) it is served with a drizzle of honey on top! It certainly is a superb way to start a meal!
Kalistounia are also similar but more popular at Easter time. The cheese which fills these is much sweeter, however, the type of cheese you discover in the parcel can depend on what region of Crete you find yourself in. These are more like a custard doughnut than a wholesome warm cheese pie!
A perfect dessert for your Cretan getaway, these fried dough balls are usually served with ice cream, nuts and honey. The traditional Loukoumades are crispy and golden on the outside and fluffy on the inside. These bite-sized delicacies are simply irresistible! For the chocolate lovers, you can also drizzle them with some rich chocolate sauce. They also go well with a side order of fruit.
Crete is famous for its fine collection of tasty treats, and with the above dishes being just a few of them it’s not hard to see why! Don’t forget to pop to a local market to pick up the ingredients or visit a local restaurant to indulge in some of these Cretan wonders when on your trip! You are sure to leave the island with a sweet taste in your mouth, and some wonderful memories and experiences.