Crete is the most beautiful and the largest island in Greece. Full of scents, colors, music, and rich flavors. Regardless of which prefecture you choose to go (Chania, Rethymno, Heraklion, Agios Nikolaos), you will be enchanted and you will definitely want to come back. So, being gourmands, we searched it a bit and found gastronomic treasures that you have to try if you haven’t already. Cretan products stand out because of the quality and richness of the soil. Ready for a delicious and aromatic journey?
Potherbs & Herbs
The most typical example of all is the stamnagathi, which grows mainly on the coast and the salt makes it delicious. It can also be found on the mountains, it looks like a thorny bush and is located close to rocks. Stamnagathi is collected and consumed with oil and vinegar, but it can be eaten as a salad ingredient, as well.
Another example of Cretan cuisine is the ascordoulaki, which are bulbs of wild greens. They are gathered from the mountains and you can eat them fresh as a salad with oil, vinegar or lemon, but also pickled or stewed.
Lately, using aloe, which is said to be “ the plant of immortality ”, has become a new trend. The Cretan soils are suitable for its cultivation and produce on a great scale. It is not an edible product but a healing plant.
Crete produces excellent cheeses made out of sheep and goat milk. One thing is for sure, a Cretan table will always have a type of cheese stealing the show! Cretan cheeses can be used as appetizers, mezze, snack, even dessert. You can enjoy them in dishes and delicacies such as “mizithropita” and “kaltsounia”, which are the most popular local cheesepie recipes.
Some typical examples of local cheeses are:
Cretan Gruyere: yellow cheese with a rich and slightly sweet taste
Xynomyzithra: white, soft and creamy cheese
Pihtogalo: cheese with a creamy texture and slightly sour taste produced in the region of Chania
Xynogalo: white, creamy cheese with a distinctly sour taste produced in the region of Sitia
Staka / Staka butter: a rich substance made of ewe’s or goat’s cream, a
most typical ingredient in Cretan cuisine
Meats & Sausages
In Crete, two types of meat prevail, lamb and goat. Due to the fact that Crete has a very developed livestock farming sector, meats and sausages are never missing from the Cretan table.
The most famous and traditional way of cooking the goat and the lamb is the antikristo, also known as ofto.
This is a delicious dish and its preparation is a rather impressive spectacle to see! Large pieces of meat are passed through skewers, which are placed around a fire forming a circle. The meat is slow-cooked for 5 to 6 hours. The result is unique, since the meat melts in the mouth, leaving even the most demanding meat lovers filled with joy and gratitude!
Some typical appetizers that also stand out, are the local apaki, siglino and the marinated sausage. The difference lies in the fact that the “smoking” of pork is made using aromatic plants, which is why it is so special and characteristic.
Bread & Paximadia
An important part of Cretan culture and tradition is bakery. The traditional ways of preparing and cooking are plenty, but the most characteristic Cretan bakery product is the Cretan paximadi, a hard bread made of whole wheat or barley flour, served in many different ways and tasty combinations.
A local recipe that stands out, however, is Dakos, a traditional Cretan dish. This is paximadi topped with tomato and Cretan mizithra or crumbled feta cheese. Necessary ingredients are lots of olive oil, a bit of salt, and oregano. It’s fast, easy, and, believe me, delightful!
The most well-known appetizer of Crete deserves to star in a category of its own. The well-known snails’ dish, called Chochlioi, is simply scrumptious! Their cooking techniques may vary. They can be stewed, boiled, or fried. The fried snails, in particular, are the most common treat to find in the local restaurants of the island. It may not sound very tempting, but if you find yourself in Crete, give it a go and you will be craving for more!
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, there is no way that the locals won’t offer you a cup of raki! The drink of hospitality and courtesy is served in every corner of Crete, morning to night!
Raki, which is also known as tsikoudia is transparent and fragrant nectar, present in all the occasions of Cretan social life and abundant in every home. The water of fire, as it is called by many, is a socializing drink for the locals as it lightens the spirit and opens up the heart! What do you think; Will you give it a chance?
As you see, the island of Crete is considered a gastronomic paradise for every lover of good food and drink. Locals know how to taste every moment of their life and they invite you to do the same. What are you waiting for?