Food of Crete - 15 Must Try Authentic Cretan Dishes

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Due to its isolation from mainland Greece, Crete has a strong and complex culinary tradition that goes back several centuries. Cretan cuisine is known for its simplicity. It features several mouth-watering dishes made entirely from locally obtained ingredients such as unique lamb or goat cheeses and meat, wild herbs such as parsley and mint, virgin olive oil, sweet honey, and fragrant wine. All of this makes the food one of the many treasures of this marvellous island.

Read on to learn about 15 local food of Crete:

1. Dakos

Dakos, also known as koukouvayia, is a traditional Cretan meze, or an appetizer, that you can enjoy as a light snack during a nice multi-course dinner. It consists of a hard rusk called paximadi, which is usually made of barley flour and has a topping comprising chopped tomatoes, olive oil, peppers, and several classic Greek kinds of cheese and herbs.
Where to try:
Peskesi, Heraklion.
Ferryman Taverna, Elounda.
Kormoranos Bakery Cafe, Chania.
Approximate Cost: EUR 5 - EUR 15

 2. Cretan Cheeses

Cretan Cheese - Myzithra
The island of Crete has a long and ancient tradition of quality cheese-making. Made from sheep or goat milk, the many varieties of Cretan cheeses profoundly enhance the local cuisine. The soft and creamy Myzithra is known for going excellently with sweet desserts. The hard and salty Kefalotyri is used in gourmet dishes. The most popular, however, is the rich Graviera cheese, which is fried and eaten as it is or used in pies, pasta dishes, and salads.
Where to try: Any Restaurant.
Approximate Cost: EUR 4 - EUR 20

 3. Chochlioi Bourbouristi

Cooked snails
Chochlioi Bourbouristi is another age-old delicacy that is considered to be a notable component of Cretan cuisine. 'Chochlioli' means 'snails' in the local dialect, whereas 'bourbouristi' means 'face-down,' i.e., the way the snails are cooked. These snails are collected from mountains during the months after the winter rains. The snails are first boiled and then fried face-down in olive oil, salt, flour, vinegar, and herbs such as rosemary.
Where to try:
Rokos, Marathi.
Rakomelo, Elounda.
Ta Meraklikia tou Boureksi, Chania (7:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Sundays).
Approximate Cost: EUR 3 - EUR 15

 4. Gamopilafo

A staple offering at Cretan weddings, Gamopilafo is a delicious buttery rice dish made by cooking rice in a rich lamb or chicken broth. It has a long and intricate history and is one of the finest representations of traditional Cretan cuisine. To go on a food tour of the island and not try this festive dish is simply unthinkable!
Where to try: Erganos, Heraklion (1:00 PM to 1:00 AM).
Monastiri, Chania.
Semiramis, Chania.
Approximate Cost: EUR 10 - EUR 30

 5. Kalitsounia

Kalitsounia are tasty little cheese pies popular in the Chania prefecture of Crete. They look like pastries stuffed with delicious local cheeses, usually myzithra, and herbs like parsley. Sweeter variants are topped with honey and cinnamon powder. Kalitsounia is served everywhere in Crete as delicious and healthy snacks. Restaurants in Chania especially are known to offer several famous varieties.
Where to try: I Palatia, Kandanos.
Gramboussa, Kaliviani.
Lithos Restaurant Cafe, Chania.
Approximate Cost: EUR 3 - EUR 15

 6. Antikristo 

Antikristo is the Cretan technique of barbecuing meat. It originates from the culinary traditions of the sheep breeders of ancient Crete. In Antikristo, the lamb is grilled in a metal wire cage suspended over a fire. It allows the meat to retain its juices when roasting, giving it a rich and delicious flavour. It takes long to prepare Antikristo meat and has become rare in most of Crete. However, if you go to the right places, you can definitely enjoy this local dainty.
Where to try: Athali, Heraklion.
To Antikristo, Chania.
Approximate Cost: EUR 15 - EUR 40

 7. Sfakiani Pie

Sfakiani Pie
Sfakiani pie, or the Sfakianipita, is a famous dessert originating in the Sfakia region of Crete. It is a fried crepe-like flatbread stuffed with the local myzithra cheese, drenched in honey, and topped with cinnamon or sesame seeds. This sweet treat is often served warm as breakfast and is complemented with tsikoudia, a fragrant Cretan brandy.
Where to try: Despina, Sfakia.
Monastiri, Chania. 
Approximate Cost: EUR 3 - EUR 10

8. Chaniotika Boureki 

Chaniotiko Boureki
Chaniotika Boureki, or 'Boureki from Chania', is a baked casserole dish traditionally made with potatoes, zucchini, local cheeses, and herbs. This purely vegetarian delight is one of the most authentic Cretan dishes and is perfect for a rich and hearty family dinner.
Where to try: Mythos Taverna (5:00 PM to 2:00 AM), Apokoronas.
Tamam Restaurant, Chania.
Ta Meraklikia tou Boureksi, Chania (7:00 PM to 11:00 PM on Sundays).
Approximate Cost: EUR 6 - EUR 20

9. Staka Me Ayga

Staka me Ayga
Staka me Agya
An extremely simple yet full-flavoured dish, Staka Me Ayga, is a mouth-watering combination of poached eggs and staka, a local dairy product made with creamy butter and flour. It can be eaten as it is and can also be used as a spread or a dip. Served warm, Staka Me Ayga promises a highly satisfying breakfast.
Where to try: Taverna Costas, Xerokampos.
To Antikristo, Chania
Approximate Cost: EUR 5 - EUR 15

10. Stamnankathi

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Native to the island, Stamnankathi is an edible weed used widely in the local cuisine. Though it is somewhat bitter in taste, it is loaded with several nutrients, making it a healthy addition to Cretan dishes. Stamnankathi is used in several foods, including pies and salads. But it most popularly features in combination with lamb meat, sauteed in sauces, olive oil, and lemon juice.
Where to try: Any Restaurant.
Approximate Cost: EUR 3 - EUR 20

11. Tsikoudia

Tsikoudia, or Raki as it is known in the eastern parts, is a fragrant alcoholic beverage made on Crete by distilling the pomace of grapes. It is a warming and clear spirit, popular as a welcome drink to visitors and tourists. Tsikoudia is usually served as a digestif after a nice Cretan dinner.
Where to try: Any Restaurant.
Approximate Cost: EUR 3 - EUR 7

12. Apaki

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A classic dish from the Byzantine period, Apaki is a pork appetizer popular in Crete. It is made from cured pork hung over wood smoke and traditional aromatic herbs such as oregano and thyme. Apaki is a highly flavourful snack and can be paired with any other food item, including salads, pasta, and rice dishes.
Where to try: Vourvouladiko, Heraklion.
Estiatório Asíkiko, Rethymnon.
Ta Skalomata, Anogia.
Approximate Cost: EUR 10 - EUR 20

13. Tsigaristo

Tsigaristo is a lip-smacking meat dish consisting of fine lamb meat slowly cooked and sauteed in a sauce of onions, olive oil, garlic, and wine and seasoned with spices and herbs. The meat is very tender and succulent, making it an exceedingly delicious and filling dish. The best Tsigaristo is prepared using traditional techniques in the mountainous regions of Crete.
Where to try: Mesostrato, Kandanos.
Taverna Athitis, Apokornas.
Tzaneris & Archontissa, Drakona.
Approximate Cost: EUR 10 - EUR 25

14. Askordoulakous 

'Askordoulakos' is the name of the bulbs of the wild Leopoldia comosa plant that grows in the mountains of Crete. These bulbs are boiled and then cooked and served in various ways. Askordoulakous can be served fresh in salads. They can also be pickled or stewed for several other dishes.
Where to try: Kritiko Spiti, Sitia.
Alekos Taverna,Rethymnon.
Nykterida Restaurant Bar, Kounoupidiana.
Approximate Cost: EUR 7 - EUR 15

15. Marathopita 

Like Sfakianipita, Marathopita is another delicious traditional pie originating from Crete. Unlike Sfakianipita, Marathopita is a savoury pie stuffed with aromatic fennel grown all over the island. This pie also uses onions, spinach, olive oil, mint, and pepper. Marathopita is also highly nutritious, making it a healthy and authentic Cretan culinary offering.
Where to try: Kaliderimi, Chania Town.
Michalis Taverna, Chania Town.
Romeos Family Restaurant, Agia Marina (4:00 PM to 12:00 AM).
Approximate Cost: EUR 5 - EUR 15
A trip to Crete is incomplete without trying the variety of delicacies it offers. Dive into the sea of local flavours, satisfy your appetites and take home unforgettable memories of this mesmerizing Mediterranean island!

This post was published by Sai Srujan Reddy

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