Meze - the national dish of Cyprus
Amateur chefs and gourmets like to taste dishes from different cuisines of the world. And if you like Cypriot culinary specialties, be sure to cook meze at home. But first find out what it is.
What is a meze?
Meze is not a specific dish, but a whole set of snacks or components of hot dishes and side dishes. The portions are small, but there are a lot of them: the total number can reach up to two or three dozen. Such a method of filing is especially common in the Mediterranean countries, including Cyprus. But also the meze is popular in Lebanon, Serbia, Turkey, Albania, Armenia and Georgia (names may vary, but the principle is always approximately the same).
An interesting fact: literally from the Greek language the name "meze" is translated as "snack" or "taste". But in some Cypriot villages, where tourists are infrequent, and the local population does not speak English, there is a somewhat different name - Mezedes. Therefore, if you decide to visit the remote corners of Cyprus, remember this, otherwise in local cafes you simply will not understand.
What can be included?
What is a meze is now clear, so it's worth finding out the composition of the dish.He can vary in different places and be almost anything, it all depends on the set of products at the chef, his skills and preferences. Cyprus is a colorful country famous for its unique culinary traditions, a special love for food and an abundance of food.
So meze is the best way to appreciate the national cuisine in all its glory. But at the same time, you will be able to choose the most suitable option for you, since the components of the dish can be meat, fish or even vegetarian and lean.
So what is a part of meze? Consider the possible options:
- Tahini is a national Cypriot pasta sauce in the form of a paste that has the consistency of liquid sour cream and is made from sesame seeds with the addition of lemon juice.
- Olives in a variety of variations: fresh, pickled, whole (with or without stones), with lemon or garlic cloves and other additional additives, crushed, fully ripened black or unripened greens. Almost no Cypriot feast can do without the fruits of the olive tree.
- Dzadziki - a light and fresh Greek sauce consisting of yogurt, fresh cucumbers, garlic,olive oil and pepper. It can become an excellent addition to other constituent meze - hot dishes, side dishes or snacks.
- Taramasalata is a national Cypriot dish made from a mixture of fish (usually cod and smoked in addition) caviar, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic or greens. All this is whipped and served as a savory sauce.
- Talaturi is a Cypriot variety of tzatziki, which is also prepared from yogurt and cucumber, but contains less garlic and is complemented by refreshing mint leaves, giving the sauce a unique aroma and specific interesting taste.
- Dolmades is chopped meat and rice with onions and herbs or seasonings wrapped in grape leaves. This dish reminds more familiar for many cabbage rolls.
- Khoriatyki salad is a rustic or, as everybody used to call it, a Greek salad. It can also be included in the meze and usually consists of sweet peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, feta cheese, olives, cucumbers, and aromatic herbs popular in Cyprus.
- Hummus is one of the most popular Arab snacks, which the Cypriots are also very respected and loved.It is made from grated chickpeas and sesame seeds, as well as lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.
- Lukanika - smoked sausages from meat (usually pork) with the addition of fragrant coriander or other spicy spices. Before cooking, they marinate in wine.
- Manitaria are miniature Cypriot mushrooms that gather in the Troodos mountainous areas and are usually served in pickled form.
- Capers - fruits and unblown flower buds of plants of the family Capers, which are widespread and Mediterranean cuisine. Usually they are dried a little, and then salted or pickled and served as an appetizer that has a sour taste.
- Halloumi is a cheese considered the property of the Cypriot cuisine, prepared from a mixture of sheep and goat milk, having a layered structure and a slightly salty soft taste. Often it is fried on a grill and served with mint leaves.
- Popular in Cyprus and feta cheese, belonging to the Greek cuisine, consisting of sheep and goat milk and stored in brine.
- In some regions of Cyprus, mezah is served as part of the mezaka, a national Greek dish consisting of eggplants, lamb (or other meats), tomatoes, and bechamel sauce. Sometimes zucchini, mushrooms, potatoes are added.
- Keftedes is a kind of Cypriot cutlets made from minced meat with savory spices.
- Tavvas - lamb, which is baked and usually served with vegetables and potatoes, supplemented with olive oil.
- Stifado - meat (for example, beef, rabbit), stewed in wine sauce with the addition of aromatic spices.
- Sheftalya - minced pork cutlets with seasonings, cooked on the grill.
- Souvlaki - a kind of kebab of lamb, chicken and pork, characterized by small size pieces.
- Kleftiko - lamb, which is traditionally baked in clay ovens with bay leaves and other spices.
- Emisto - various vegetables stuffed with minced meat, rice and herbs (including bell peppers).
- Dishes from fish and seafood. Cypriots prefer to preserve the natural taste of such products, so they are usually fried in olive oil or grilled with spices.
- Roasted vegetables flavored with olive oil are also very popular.
How is such a dish served?
Each institution has its own special traditions of serving meze, but usually small plates are placed on a table or a large beautiful tray.The set is designed for a minimum of two, and one person cannot cope with the abundance of snacks and dishes. Although the whole company, which is seated at a large table, may well share a meze.
Traditionally the first light snacks, vegetable salads and sauces are served. Together with them they make fragrant freshly baked bread. Then visitors are offered cheeses such as national halloumi and feta. They are often supplemented with fresh greens. This is followed by the main hot dishes along with side dishes: meat, seafood or fish, potatoes, vegetables. For dessert, offered pieces of fruit, jam, cakes.
Various alcoholic beverages can be offered to the meze, but the most popular and beloved indigenous Cypriots are, of course, the wine that is prepared here with love from the best grapes.
Good to know: the price of servings varies from 12-15 euros to 25-30, depending on the specific region and institution.
How to eat a meze?
Meze is a dish that fully reflects the mentality and basic principle of the life of indigenous Cypriots - “whitefish”. Locals are accustomed to do everything without haste, slowly, enjoying and drawing pleasure.This stable expression extends to the use of meze. Do not rush, carefully chew every bit and savor it. Be prepared for the fact that the meal can last for several hours, and for the population of Cyprus it is normal and natural, because you need to enjoy your meal.
It is unlikely that you will be able to eat everything, especially when you consider that the meze is served for at least two. But in order not to offend the owner of the institution and the cook, you can ask to wrap the leftovers with you, this practice takes place and is welcome.
If you are lucky enough to visit sunny Cyprus, be sure to visit the local institution and order a traditional meze.
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