Cretan Cuisine: What To Look Out For
With the perfect climate and ideal growing conditions, the beautiful island of Crete can produce almost any fruit or vegetable. With a whole host of exciting foods to try when you visit the island, it’s important to know what to look out for.
The tavernas which are dotted about in all villages and towns of Crete, buy the vast majority of their produce locally. This allows you to experience not only authentic Cretan cuisine, but freshly cooked and locally sourced too – a dream for any foodie!
However it’s not just the tavernas we advise you explore. The local street markets and supermarkets hold a great array of food and drink which offer new tastes, textures and flavours for those whose taste buds are in need of something different.
First up is the staple item that is the priority of all tavernas – a good quality olive oil. Words cannot describe the importance of this complimentary item to Cretan food. With around 60 olive trees per inhabitant of Crete, their oil is amongst the best in the world.
It can be bought in the supermarkets, but if you’re looking for something special, try and buy it direct from a producer at a market (or from Jan of Crete Escapes here!). It can take time to find the oil that is perfect for you, but that is the beauty of it – there are so many to try, so enjoy the process! Why not try it the local way by dipping your bread into olive oil sprinkled with salt.
Crete produces a small but quality selection of cheeses. It’s not just about feta! Look out for Graviera (a hard cheese which is great with honey) and Anthotiros (a soft cheese). Myzithra is a fabulous one to try too. Traditionally made of Ewe’s milk or goat’s milk (katsikithia) – it is the ‘house’ cheese of Crete, available in all good deli’s.
While moving around the island, you will find the smell of fresh herbs and greens envelope your senses. With fields of fresh produce growing all over the countryside, make sure to try cooking with some fresh oregano, sage, thyme, parsley or basil.
Something to look out for if you have a sweet tooth is Cretan honey. Either from a supermarket, or if you can from a local producer, the taste of this sweet stuff will awaken your taste buds. Look out for thyme honey especially!
Finally – don’t believe that just because you’re on a Grecian island that Ouzo is the local drink. Raki (or tsikoudia) is in fact what you should be looking for and is deemed to be the Cretan hard drink of choice.
Similar to Italian grappa but smoother, it is best avoided in the supermarket and bought from a local producer – but be warned, it’s strong stuff! You will find it is normally served with savoury snacks and desserts – something to absorb the alcohol is advised if you would like to remember the rest of your day! It frequently comes “on the house” at the end of a meal too.
All of our villas come with fully functioning kitchens, so take advantage of these beautiful street markets and local ingredients, and cook up a storm of your own!