10 Uniquely Cretan Delicacies To Try

We probably don’t need to tell an audience such as you what an undeniably useful habit travelling is. It helps you expand your horizons by visiting new places, meeting different people, soaking in cultures unbeknownst to you and all that jazz. But if we are being honest there is one other aspect of travelling that renders the process so alluring; food. Experiencing exotic flavors in their point of origin is incomparable. Sure you can have sushi in Times Square and couscous overlooking the Hollywood sign, but these will never measure up to their counterparts in the skyscraper-infested Shinjuku district or the Medieval Necropolis of Chellah.

Today we’d like to take you to a culinary journey around the island of Crete. One of the largest islands in the Mediterranean and for millennia a junction between Europe and the Middle East. Influences from the surrounding regions have shaped Cretan cuisine in such a unique way, that experiencing it is reason enough to plan a trip there. So let us explore together 10 uniquely Cretan delicacies nobody should miss out on.

 

Lamb with Stamnagkathi

Greeks loving lamb is not exactly a headline. However, you'll have a hard time coming up with a vegetable as quintessentially Cretan as stamnagkathi. This thorny variety of chicory is found all around the island and although other Mediterranean cultures simply weed it out, in Crete they found a way to turn it into a local delicacy. Boiled and served with an egg-lemon sauce to neutralize its inherent bitterness, stamnagkathi has become the ideal companion for a baked leg of lamb. I guess ancient Greeks had the right idea thinking it possessed medicinal qualities, as its high fiber concentration will do wonders for you.

Dakos

One of the dishes found anywhere on the island, Dakos is pretty much the Cretan version of salad. Known by various names across the country, dakos embodies the spirit of Mediterranean cuisine, with simple and fresh ingredients. Chopped tomatoes and crumbled feta resting on crunchy barley rusk with an assortment of local herbs providing the finishing touch. Can you think of a better way to start a meal?

Staka with Eggs

In Crete, the most important meal of the day usually contains staka and eggs. Staka is a type of roux prepared with starch and local dairy products. Easy to make and able to combine with different foods, the preferred way is to throw a couple of eggs in and serve it with a pinch of pepper. Breakfast with a faint cheesy flavor and a touch of spice that's meant to be consumed while sizzling hot.

Cochlioi Boubouristi

Cochlioi Boubouristi is not only a hard to pronounce dish, but an acquired taste very popular among the locals in Crete. A butter-free variation of escargot, in which the snails are prepared with white wine and bay leaves, this delicacy combines a number of herbs that give it a unique flavor. Celery, onion and rosemary usually accompanies the dish and vinegar to complete the cornucopia of flavors will be suggested in every local tavern.

Apaki

For the meat-lovers out there, lets us introduce you to apaki. A traditional Cretan meze, apaki is smoked pork -usually tenderloin- served without any side dishes to isolate the flavor. The meat used is always fat-free to augment the taste. Originally conceived as a way of cooking that helped preserve meat for long periods, apaki withstood the test of time and cemented its way in the pantheon of Greek cuisine.

Gamopilafo

As the name suggests, gamopilafo is an indispensable part of any Cretan wedding. Contrary to most dishes of the sort, the success of gamopilafo does not lie in the meat used, but on the rice. The pilaf variety needs to be prepared very creamy -nobody spares the butter here-  and with the right amount of lemon added. Gamopilafo is known to be served with either goat or lamb and in some cases even with poultry.

Fried Zucchini Blossoms

You'll need to be lucky to get the chance to taste this marvel of traditional Cretan cuisine, as the blossoms are in season only a few months a year (around spring). A light dish that is usually served for lunch, fried zucchini blossoms have different variations depending on where you are on the island. Sometimes stuffed with local cheeses and other times served with yogurt and spearmint on the side, one thing is certain: You just found yet another reason for spend your spring break in Crete.

Kalitsounia

No meal is complete without dessert. Kalitsounia is a sweet pastry that started of as a holiday treat, but came to be so addictive that it transcended calendar restrictions. Nowadays you can enjoy the sweet cheese Kalitsounia all year round, even in bakeries. Occasionally topped with cinnamon or honey, this is a must-have for every tourist.

Cretan Cheesecake

Staying in the spirit of desserts, here is an eclectic taste in the form of the Cretan cheesecake. Found in select spots on the island's largest cities, this is an exquisitely conceived twist on the popular dessert. With a cream made exclusively out of local cheeses, a base of biscuit made of dakos and fresh strawberry sauce on top, this will be a mind-blowing experience even if you don't normally have a sweet tooth. 

Last but not least, comes raki. One can't say they've really been to Crete unless they've tasted the favorite drink of the local population. This sweetened, anise-flavored drink contains quite a bit of alcohol so consume with caution. Although usually offered after meals, raki can be consumed on its own, but never on an empty stomach.

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