Food Glossary

food & drink glossary

meze (μεζέ): the set menu you order in a taverna (see below). It is made of small dishes to share including starters, like village salad and dips, like yoghurt and tahini, as well as other appetizers like zucchini with eggs, traditional macaroni with grated halloumi cheese, grilled mushrooms. The main dish is usually a selection of meat, like fried lamp liver, pork and chicken kebab (souvlakia), lamp chops and grilled chicken. One can order a-la-carte from a menu similar to the above. Sauces and salsas are not that common in Cypriot cuisine, and neither is spicy food

mezetzis (μεζετζής): comes from the word, meze, and refers to the Cypriot “gourmant” who likes good food

kleftiko (κλέφτικο): slow cooked lamp prepared using wood in a built oven (usually outside) that takes approximately 12 hours to make. It is wrapped in foil or paper together with potatoes, which are cooked in the jus of the meat. The word itself means “stolen”, as in the old times the thieves would steal the meat and cook it in the ground, covered with mud so that the smoke wouldn’t give them away

souvlakia (σουβλάκια): Cypriot kebab, cooked on charcoal and served as cubes of chicken or pork. They are usually served in tavernas as part of the meze course, or ordered to take away/delivery from local restaurants or kiosks which only do takeaway. It is a custom that once or twice a week a family has souvlakia take away, or made at home, of course, on the “foukou” (see below). They cost from 4-6 EUR and served in pita bread with salad and possibly “sieftalia” if you order a “mix” pitta

sieftalia (σιεφταλία): minced meat wrapped in caul fat and served with “souvlakia”. It looks and tastes similar to a sausage but much softer. Cypriot delicacy!

souvla (σούβλα): lamp prepared on the “foukou” (see below) with charcoal, (similar to “souvlakia”). The only difference is that it takes longer to make and it is not usually found on the takeaway “souvlakia” kiosks, but more often in the tavernas, or of course in Cypriot houses. Souvla is very important to Cypriot culture as it is what we eat when we have a feast, like Easter and Christmas days, (as well as on any given Sunday lunch). There is also chicken souvla, even though lamp is preferred

Pasticcio (παστίτσιο): it is hard to know exactly where the word came from as in the old times it was a pie with meat and pasta but it is also a type of music composition. In Greek it is a dish made from macaroni (similar to penne), minced meat and béchamel cream (as in “mousakka”). It is cooked in the oven and one can find it in a typical Cypriot home, in a taverna as part of the “meze” or in a magirio. Note that in Cyprus we call it “makaronia tou fournou”, meaning macaroni in the oven

loukaniko: technically it is the Cypriot word for sausage. Cypriot sausages are made from pork meat, wine, salt and spices and they can be kept for a long periods if kept refrigerated. They are served cold, fried or grilled either as part of the “meze” or by themselves to nibble

halloumi (χαλλούμι): traditional Cyprus cheese served cold or grilled, also part of “meze”. It is made of a mixture of goat and cow milk (or only goat if the quality is high)

lountza (λούντζα): smoked Cyprus ham served as a starter, grilled or cold, as a part of meze, in a sandwich, or to nibble with zivania

popasto (πόπαστο): the dessert, the sweet after the main savory dishes

ospria (όσπρια): traditional Cypriot pulses, including black-eyed peas (louvi), white beans (fasolia), peas (mpizeli) and giant beans (gigantes). These are cooked at least once or twice a week by a Cypriot family and also offered in magiria (see below). They are eaten with canned tuna or anchovies, cucumber, tomato and onions (spring or whole), olive oil and lemon

tsoureki (τσουρέκι): Greek Easter bread that tastes like a rich brioche, used to break Lenten fast. It is made of flour, eggs, milk, yeast and sugar

flaouna (φλαούνα): Cypriot pastry made to break the Easter lenten fast (as tsoureki above). It is a bit more savory than tsoureki, and is based on flour, cheese and raisins

baklava (μπακλαβάς): Greek (or Lebanese) dessert made from philo, sweet syrop and nuts

galaktoboureko (γαλακτομπούρεκο): Greek and Cypriot dessert made from milk cream and philo pastry, truly and utterly divine (in the “baklava” family)

zivania (ζιβανία): traditional spirit made from grape pomace and local dry wines. It is served with meze or on its own, usually in small bottles usually with shot glasses (but not necessarily drunk as a shot)

ouzo (ούζο): pure ethyl alcohol together with anise. It is served with meze food or on its own, usually with ice and water

other important words

foukou (φουκού): the Cypriot barbecue device. It is simply a metal box with holes for the barbecue sticks to sit on. It is used to make souvlakia, souvla (lamp), sieftalia or other barbecue food

magirio (μαγειρίο): traditional restaurant that looks (and feels) like grandma’s kitchen, which serves traditional homemade food. The menu usually changes every day and the menu is fixed as the food is pre-cooked.  It will definitively include a few types of “ospria” (beans, lentils, black-eyed peas or chick peas), and definitely one dish of each type of meat, be it slow cooked lamp, roast chicken or pork chops. The places is usually humble, the prices are low and the food is good

taverna (ταβέρνα): restaurant, which serves traditional food. Tavernas usually serve “meze” (see above), ie a set menu made of starters  made of salads, dips and meat dishes. The décor is usually anything from extremely humble and basic, to a proper restaurant. Most of the times tavernas are extremely casual

mpouzoukia (μπουζούκια): if you were wondering where those places where they dance to Zorba music and break plates are, you just found them. Mpouzoukia are practically tavernas with live music, always Greek and usually folk, where people can eat, and of course drink and dance. MUST SEE for those who want to experience a proper Greek party.