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Posted on: Dec 5, 2018

Must Local Food Specialties To Try In Crete

cretan cheese, cretan nutrition, food to eat in crete, local traditional specialities

You do intend visiting Crete this summer or maybe you do already enjoy the unique Crete. Then you would absolutely would like to taste the well-known and healthy Cretan Cuisine.

Then I am glad to inform you that you are in the right place.

It is well known that the traditional Cretan nutrition is a model of a healthier diet.

The traditional Cretan cuisine is based on the consumption of cereals, vegetables and herbs, dairy, fruits, legumes, nuts, wine, honey and limited quantity of meat. Besides, the island of Crete is famous for its rich agricultural production and the excellent quality of its products.

Find below a few (there are even more ) must local foods and specialties to try during your holiday in lovely Crete.

- Olive Oil : We love olive oil and we use it almost everywhere. The best known good, located on the top of the food pyramid is the olive oil. The olive trees that one comes across along the length and width of Crete become the synonym of the natural terrain of the island. These trees, generously offer to us that fine product. Olive oil, unlike seed oils, is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids and is a product of high nutritional value. Olive oil, also, contains a large amount of antioxidants that protect the organism from various diseases. Moreover, it is very interesting to mention the fact that composition of fatty acids in olive oil is similar to that of fat in breast milk.

- Fried snails (Chochlioi boubouristi) : We love snails and have invented countless ways of cooking them (hochlioi boubouristoi, snails in the skillet with olive oil, vinegar and rosemary, braised snails, snails with artichokes, wild greens, snails with fresh broad beans, etc.)

- Cretan Cheeses : Almost every Cretan village has its own signature cheese. We usually made them from sheep or goat’s milk, or a combination of both and each cheese variety has its local interpretation. Of the legion of delicious cheeses, look for graviera, a harder cheese that’s sweeter when new, but nutty and flavourful after aging. Soft, creamy cheeses, abound like pichtogalo Chanion, which has AOC protection, or myzithra, a young whey cheese with a lovely mild taste.

- Chaniotiko Boureki : It is a simple yet tasty zucchini and potato pie. Also called kolokythoboureko (from kolokytho, pumpkin or zucchini), chaniotiko boureki includes zucchini, potatoes and mizithra cheese, covered by a sheet of pastry.

- Cretan paximadia : The Paximadi is a double-baked bread and a very important part of our healtht nutrition. Foreign tourists that arrived in Crete in the 19th century and in the first decades of the 20th century described the bread of the Cretan with unflattering words. However, Robert Parsly from Britain (1834), who was a wise man, was impressed by the dark bread of the monks of Crete, which was made from wheat, barley and rye.

It took many years to prove, through studies, that the Cretans were right! The fibers contained in the traditional Cretan bread help the function of the intestine, and especially the large intestine. Moreover, it is said that wholemeal bread can possibly prevent gastric cancer and especially the cancer of the large intestine!

- In case that you are vegetarian or just temporarily off meat you could ask the waiter if there are any orphans on the menu. “Orfana” is the folk term used for the meatless verions of a dish like, for example, stuffed vegetables ( tomatoes, potatoes, pepperoni, zuchini, eggplants etc.) or dolmades - vineleaves made with rice instead of ground beef. 

- Artichokes : In order to find them fresh, you’ll have to be here in spring, before June. We collect them from the wild and cook them simply by boiling and serving with olive oil and lemon juice. They are also widely available at the farmers markets of Chania, Rethymnon, Heraklion and Agios Nikolaos. In Crete we eat them fresh accompanied with fresh beans but we even cook them with meat, broad beans dill and an egg-lemon sauce.

- Staka : It gives many Cretan delicacies their truly distinctive tasty flavour. Staka is made from the crust of boiled sheep’s/goat’s milk. The crust, under constant stirring and through the addition of salt and flour, produces a rich cream, staka in Greek and clarified butter, stakovoutiro. Staka is a perfect match with fried eggs, fried potatoes and many Cretan meat pies. It’s heaven to savour on its own but obviously, it is true caloric dynamite!

- Lamb with stamnagathi : Cretans have their own take on lamb. Our version incorporates stamnagathi, a wild green that has become trendy of late, and features on many top-end restaurant menus. The Cretan lamb is sautéed in hot olive oil and oregano accompanied with the stamnagathi green and the well-known avgolemono (egg and lemon-based) sauce, or, more simply, a squeeze of fresh lemon. 

- Mountain Bulbs (Askordoulakous) : Part of the magic of Cretan food are the ingredients gathered from hillsides and around villages. Askordoulakous are the bulbs of a wild green, and Cretans gather bulbs and eat them as a fresh salad, dressed with oil and vinegar or lemon. They also pickle them, or stew them with local olive oil, vinegar and flour. The delicate white blossoms of the green are also edible, simply boiled or used in other dishes.

- Sfakia pies (Sfakianes pites) :  These yummy pies hale from southern Crete, from a mountainous coastal region called Sfakia. At a glance, these treats look like pancakes, but beyond the flour, the dough contains, local olive oil, and the infamous Cretan liquor, raki. Then, any number of the various Cretan fresh, soft, white goat or sheep’s milk cheeses like myzithra or pichtogalo Chanion are incorporated into the centre of the pie. Fried with only a light brushing of olive oil, they are eaten with a drizzling of thyme or heather honey.

Cretan honey : Walk into any Cretan home and you will find a large pot of the best honey, never purchased at the supermarket, but locally produced, offered as a gift from a beekeeping acquaintance or family friend. Honey is still an important part of the Cretan Diet due to its health qualities but also as a symbol of health, purity and well-being. Honey is a central part of Cretan weddings – a gift of honey with walnuts is given to each of the guests as a symbol of fertility and well-being of the couple. Cretan honey is used in baking instead of sugar by modern-day housewives and mouth-watering syrup sweets such as loukoumades, baklava, honey pies and other pastries. The Cretan flowers  and herbs (thymian, malotira etc.) which produce honey get their specific charakter through the unique climate of the island of Crete. Since Crete is some of the sunniest places in Europe, the seemingly endless summer and therefore limited rainy days make the Cretan flowers and herbs almost waterless, rich in flavour and the resulting nectar is superb.

- Tsikoudia - Raki : It appears in every single aspect of social activity and every household on the island. Over time, tsikoudia has become a symbol of kindness and hospitality, a spirit which helps with introductions and starts new friendships. More than just a drink, it's a means of communication between friends and strangers alike. You are our guest and you deserver one or more small glasses of Tsikoudia.

Kali Orexi! 

If you would like more information about Crete, then you could visit our sister website CreteTravel.com