The beautiful and fertile Amari land possesses a high variety of the necessary raw material and also the human experience for the creation of unique tastes that are combined with the seasons and the natural environment in an excellent unity.
The miracle of the local traditional cuisine is based on cheese products, honey, aromatic plants, greens and many other products. The famous olive oil and the edible olives that are produced in the ancient Amari olive groves are considered of the world’s healthiest due to the area’s special climatological conditions.
Besides olive oil, local traditional wines which come from the small olive groves with the ancient local varietes that are spread in the slopes of the hills possess an important role in the local cuisine.
Traditional Amari olive grove is developed in small unities close to the settlements,following the uneven landscape of the area. The mild winder and the hot and dry summer with the generous sunshine and the breeze guarantee a cool growing cycle.
In many settlements, during the grape harvesting period, the trygos, in October and November, most hamlets operate traditional distillation cauldrons and allow visitors to witness the production of local raki. Raki is a unique drink that contains a high amount of alcohol. To Cretan people, the production of raki is not just a production process. It’s a celebration, an opportunity to hang out with music and of course with good food.
Antikristo: This is probably the most ‘primitive’ and also most delicious way of roasting meat. Big meat cuts, usually of lamb or goat kid, are supported on thin sticks or branches around a big fire. The meat is cooked slowly for 4-5 hours in the heat of the flames.
Apaki: Smoked truly tender pork fillet eaten raw as a meze or used as an omelette filling along with wild greens.
Eptazyma: Rusks made with a kind of sour dough based on powdered chickpea.
Kalitsounia: Small pies filled with sweet myzithra (sweet fresh cheese made with sheep’s/goat’s milk and whey) or mixed with sour myzithra, as well. Sometimes they are sweet, sometimes slightly sour. Their shape may be like an ancient oil lamp, called lyhnarakia or triangular (called anevata), similar in shape to a folder scarf.
Kefalotyri: A hard cheese, made exclusively with sheep’s milk, with an excellent savoury taste. If it has matured in the mitata (plural of mitato, stone huts on mountain peaks), on the mountains, then it is called ‘tyri tis trypas’ (literally: cheese from the hole).
Dakos: Round barley rusk, soaked in water and served with olive oil, grated tomato, oregano, and a dash of feta or xinomyzithra cheese.
Myzithra or anthotyro: This is a soft, sweet, quite fatty, really white cheese. It is made from sheep’s or goat’s milk whey or a mixture of milk and whey. It is served as a table cheese or as a dessert with honey and nuts. When it is salted and left to mature in the air, it hardens and acquires a fuller, peppery flavour and it is called anthotyro. When it is dry and hard, it can be grated over spaghetti boiled in meat stock.
Xinomyzithra: This is a soft, rather sour cheese with creamy or granular texture, mainly used as filling for sarikopita (type of cheese pie served with honey) and kalitsounia (small pies filled with cheese or herbs).
Xerotigana: Thin strips of dough that curl into a spiral as they are deep-fried in olive oil, served sprinkled with honey and sesame.
Ofto: Meat from a year old lamb (zygouri) or goat kid, which, after being well salted, is cooked in sealed ovens over burning wood.
Sarikopites: Spiral fried pies filled with xinomyzithra and served with honey. They are named after the characteristic Cretan headscarf called sarik.
Skaros: A Cretan Sea fish (Mediterranean parrotfish, Sparisoma cretense):It is served having been grilled whole with its guts, provided it was caught earlier on the same day or pot cooked in tomato sauce.
Tsakistes (literally: ‘smashed’) (olives): medium-size, green, unripe olives, the flesh of which is ‘smashed’ using a stone or a metal object.
Tsiladia: Elsewhere it is known as ‘pihti’ (meat jelly) Pieces of pork meat (head and trotters) are boiled slowly; they give out a thick, gelatin-like broth. This is seasoned with cumin, the juice of Seville oranges, and bay leaves and served mainly as a Christmas delicacy.
Tyrozouli: This is a cheese usually produced at home from goat’s milk. It is semi-hard and has excellent taste.