I did rave about the English breakfasts that get served all over the place here, but I do want to give a special mention of the local food which is absolutely wonderful.
Our first taste of the great tucker in North Cyprus came when we were hungry and decided to have lunch in a small cafe on the sidewalk of the main drag into Famagusta from the Karpaz Peninsula.
We ordered a chicken shish, which turned up in the most enormous, mouth-watering quantities. It was marinated, grilled chicken chunks served on flatbread with a mixed salad around the chicken. The side dishes consisted of chips, another big, mixed, delicious green salad, pickled chillies, local olive oil, the local cracked, green olives, hummus, labne (a sort of salty, thick yoghurt), more bread for dipping, and another side salad of mixed chilli and tomato which was absolutely delicious.
It was fantastic sitting in the bright sunshine, forging our way through all this lovely tucker, and feeling nice and relaxed after the initial hassles when we first arrived.
Then we had dinner in the hotel where we stayed in Kyrenia when we went hunting for a new apartment. Again the quantities were enormous and quite delicious. We had main dishes of steak and chicken, but with that came bread pieces with the ubiquitous deep green, local olive oil, the cracked green olives, pickled chillis, chips, a huge mixed salad and an assortment of baked veggies.
On another occasion we stopped off at a small cafe in Kyrenia where we tried gozleme (pronounced “gozlumAIR”). These are thin, fried, soft pastry shells with a filling of spiced minced meat or local hellim/haloumi cheese, served again with salad and lemon for squeezing over the gozleme. These pastries are big, one was enough for both of us, and while the food was simple it was beautifully presented and again, utterly delicious.
And when we had a chicken shish roll in another small cafe, we got marinated chunks of chicken with salad in flatbread, with pickled chillies, chips and lemon wedges. Very simple. Very delicious. EXCEPT I decided to try one of the very small, pickled, green chillies and it almost blew my head off. I literally lost my voice, coughed my head off and swigged down heaps of the soft drink I’d ordered to try to quench the fire. Never again, these little chillies are dynamite!
Quite often we get takeaway food from the Lemar supermarket, because we have a tiny kitchen and it’s difficult to cook for two in it, but also because the takeaways are delicious, nutritious and cheap. There are plenty of different salads, tzatziki, hummus, olives – black and green and they’re both delicious, different pastries, hot dishes of stuffed eggplant, chicken and veggie stew, minced meat moussaka, and grilled chicken pieces.
The quantities of local food defy us every time, we simply can’t eat all that is dished up. We have also been warned that if we go to a cafe where you are served a variety of mezze or different starter dishes, you need to only take very small quantities of each dish as they keep coming… and coming… until you are completely stuffed and they roll you out of the restaurant!
There is very little in the way of fruit and vegetables which is imported. Produce is local and seasonal, and is unprocessed. I have yet to work out what everything is as there are strange herbs and root vegetables. You buy carrots and potatoes with all the dirt on, they are not packaged, you pack up in a plastic bag however much you want, and an assistant weighs and prices them for you before you take everything to the checkout desk. And yes, that is fully automated with scanning and credit card facilities.
I think the impressive thing about all the Turkish Cypriot food we’ve eaten is not only the sheer quantity, but also the quality and the care with which each dish is so beautifully presented, however simple it is. It’s a joy to eat. And the trick, of course, to eating cheaply in North Cyprus is to be adventurous, learn how to cook the local tucker which is cheap and nutritious, and not try to live like you may have in Australia or the UK or Europe or the US or whatever.