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21/04/2015

Eat like a local

Traditional Cretan food has always been prepared from local ingredients, raw or prepared as simply as possible – grilled or baked.

Since ancient times, Cretan cuisine has been based on several basic elements: olive oil, herbs, fish and seafood, goat or lamb meat, vegetables and fruits grown on the island. Later, Venetian and Ottoman influences were added to them, which created a special cuisine. Crete has many dishes that are found everywhere in the mainland of Greece, but also some specific only to this area.

Today, the traditional Cretan diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world, so you can’t leave without eating in Cretan taverns.

Traditional Cretan Food You Must Try

When visiting Crete, immersing yourself in the local cuisine is a MUST. The island’s culinary tradition is rich and varied, offering a unique blend of flavours that tantalize the taste buds. Among the must-try dishes are:

1. Dolmades or Anthi

These are delightful little parcels made from grape leaves or courgette/ zucchini flowers, typically stuffed with rice, herbs, and sometimes meat. They offer a burst of Mediterranean flavours with each bite.

2. Dakos

Dakos Cretan Food
Dakos: simple, yet incredibly flavorful dish

This is a classic Cretan dish that features a hard barley rusk topped with chopped tomatoes, crumbled feta or mizithra cheese, olives, capers, and a generous drizzle of Cretan olive oil. It’s simple, yet incredibly flavorful.

3. Pies with wild Greens, Cheese and Meat

cretan pie with greens
Selection of Cretan pies

Cretan pies are a culinary masterpiece, often filled with a mix of wild greens, local cheeses and meat. These pies are not just food; they’re a piece of Cretan culture, baked to perfection.

4. Saganaki Cheese

Saganaki Cheese Cretan food
Saganaki Cheese

A true cheese lover’s delight, Saganaki involves frying a thick slice of cheese, often graviera or kefalotyri, to golden perfection. It’s crispy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth soft on the inside.

5. Fried Snails

traditional cretan food snails
Fried Snails or Chochlioí Boumpouristoí: Cretan food

A Cretan delicacy, these are often fried with olive oil and coated with rosemary, offering a crunchy and aromatic experience.

6. Antikristo: Traditional Cretan Meat Dish

Antikristo: Cretan food
Antikristo: Cretan delicacy

Antikristo, a renowned lamb dish from Crete, involves the locals dividing the lamb into four parts, seasoning it with salt, and skilfully threading the meat onto a sharp skewer. They then prepare a pit, filling it with ample wood to ensure a strong fire. The meat is carefully arranged around the fire’s edge, with meticulous attention paid to the fire’s strength, the meat’s placement, and even the wind’s direction.

 

Eating Out in Crete

Crete has plenty of restaurants specializing in certain types of food and drink. Although the differences between them are not too significant, we will show you what to expect.

  • Psistaría is a place specializing in grilled dishes, with a relatively limited range of salads and mezédes.
  • tavern is a bit bigger, with several dishes, including mageireftá (“slow food”), but also grilled meat or fish and wine in carafes. Most of the taverns are family businesses.
  • psárotaverna offers mainly fish and seafood dishes.
  • Ouzerí offers not only oúzo, the alcoholic drink specific to Greece or Tsikoudia original Cretan spirit also called Raki, but also mezédes, to accompany it because you should never drink Raki on an empty stomach. Raki is usually served with pieces of octopus, olives, cheese or fried fish, but you can choose something else.
  • Mezedopolío is a bit more elaborate than oúzeri because here, the emphasis is on food.
  • Kafeníon is a typical Greek café, formerly exclusively for men, which is still valid in the traditional villages in the centre of the island. Simply furnished, with old tables and chairs, it is the place where political events are debated, and backgammon is played.
 

Eating Time in Crete

In general, the Greeks do not eat a heavy breakfast – maybe just a coffee and friganiés (a kind of toast) or a pastry like Bougatsa or other pies. Lunch is eaten between 14:30 and 16:00, followed by the sacred afternoon siesta before resuming work, at 17:30. Dinner is eaten late, starting at 21:00, with some restaurants open until midnight.

 
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