Five Greek islands and their specialty foods

andros froutalia greek islands

Every region in Greece has their own specialty delicacy, and of course the Greek islands are no different in that regard.

Although Greece has 227 inhabited islands, today we will look at five and what their specialty foods are.

SIFNOS FOR CLAY BAKED REVITHADA

sifnos REVITHADA chickpeas

The dish

Thanks to its rich clay deposits, Sifnos has become known as an island for potters.

For hundreds of years, pots have been used for cooking, and no dish is more Sifnian than revithada – a baked chickpea stew traditionally served on Sundays and made in a skepastaria (a special clay pot).

sifnos REVITHADA chickpeas

Left in a wood oven overnight, it results in ultra-soft chickpeas infused with lemon and bay leaf.

The place

Head from the bay of Platis Gialos to Nero & Alati (Water and Salt) to try its special revithada, alongside other Sifnian dishes such as red-wine stewed beef.

Practically on the water, this local favourite has its own vegetable garden which provides most of its organic produce. Stay at Verina Hotel Sifnos and try your hand at the potter’s wheel; the hotel organises classes in one of Sifnos’s oldest clay workshops.

The vibe

Sifnos is a true ode to inertia; lolling in the sun is the order of the day here. Sandy beaches fringe its electric-blue coastline, but there are also wild swimming spots (the locals hit up Chrisopigi), should you fancy an even more authentic Greek island experience.

If you do manage to peel yourself off the rocks, the tidy villages here are buzzing with locals and crammed with churches – there are 366 on Sifnos.

In spite of its chilled daytime vibe, Apollonía fills up in the evenings with Athenians pouring in for a cocktail or two.

ANDROS FOR GLORIOUS COW’S MILK CHEESES AND FROUTALIA

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The dish

Forget feta, this bountiful island is all about cow’s cheese: Malako is served on your Greek salad, while the cone-shaped volaki comes as a spicy side to throat-searing raki.

The place

Make the pilgrimage up to taverna O Kosses for an insight into farm-to-table cooking.

The butter-soft malako is made by the mamma of this family restaurant, and the cow is grazing happily nearby.

Alternatively, try the local cheeses in the island’s signature dish, a froutalia omelette of potatoes, sausage and cheese served by grandmother Margarita in road-side canteen To Periptero.

andros FROUTALIA

The vibe

The island is large in comparison with its Cycladic neighbours (40km from one side to the other) with careering coastal roads that weave into olive grove-lined mountain villages and lead to hidden aquamarine-lapped pebble beaches.

It makes for a hiker’s paradise, full of trekking routes that take you through lush valleys and past crashing waterfalls.

Stay at Mèlisses Andros for flower foraging and arranging workshops, cooking classes and even natural dying technique tutorials, using the produce of the island.

MILOS FOR LADENIA IN A MOONSCAPE

milos LADENIAThe dish

As well as a 13th-century fort, the Venetians also left behind a culinary staple as their mark on Milos.

It seems strange to be eating pizza on a Greek island, but Milos’s own version, ladenia, is the signature dish.

milos LADENIAIt’s made with bread not unlike ciabatta, topped with tomato, sweet red onion and oregano, and is laced with olive oil before being baked and served hot with seasonal greens.

The place

Head to Palaios (meaning ‘old’) café in whitewashed Plaka for the best ladenia.

Grab a terrace seat and make room for dessert (you’ll have plenty of time to digest – this spot runs on Greek time). It serves another traditional Greek island dish, karpouzopita – a spiced watermelon pie that tastes better than it sounds.

The vibe

A few hours’ ferry ride from Athens or Santorini, Milos combines hazy days on white-stone beaches, intergalactic moonscapes and ancient caves with cultural outings.

Roman catacombs? Sure. Historical mines? Yep. And, of course, the long-lost arms of Venus de Milo.

From the Middle Ages onwards, Milos was a den of pirates, who profited from their position as the first island on the way to Constantinople.

Since then, Melians have gone mad with their paint pots, creating bright doors, white chapels and bold syrmata (little boat sheds carved from crumbly rock) which provide shocks of colour along the shoreline.

The whole place is ridiculously photogenic and picturesque.

TINOS FOR LOUZA SERVED WITH ZESTY LOCAL WINES

tinos LOUZAThe dish

A near neighbour of Mykonos, Tinos is fast becoming the Cycladic destination for good Greek wine.

Blessed with fertile land, the island now has seven producers with varieties ranging from a fresh Assyrtiko (a refreshingly dry white) to the dark and spicy Maurotragano.

tinos LOUZA

It’s best served with louza – cured pork with spices, brought to Tinos by the Venetians in 1204AD.

The place

If you can find it, head to the hidden village of Tripotamos (designed as a labyrinth so that it couldn’t be found by pirates in the middle ages) to the Crossroads Inn for a wine tour, tasting and lunch, hosted at their vineyard.

Their label is X-bourgo, named after the towering granite formation Exomvourgo Hill, that serves as a dramatic backdrop.

The vibe

Legend has it that Tinos owes its boulder-strewn landscape to a famous clash of the Titans who threw enormous granite rocks at each other.

It’s home to 52 villages; not only does the landscape quickly change (from verdant vineyards to deep marble quarries), its villages and beaches vary dramatically too.

Be sure to visit Volax at the heart of the island to see poetry inscribed on the outside of the villagers’ pretty, geranium-shrouded homes.

SYROS FOR SWEET AND STICKY LOUKOUMI

Syros loukoumi and coffeeThe dish

Syros’s speciality is loukoumi, commonly known in the West as Turkish delight.

It is a pink cube made from water, sugar and starch, flavoured with rose extract (or with other flavours to create other colours), it’s served at weddings and funerals or as a side to tar-thick Greek coffee.

It might be a dentist’s nightmare, but with coffee, it’s the perfect pick-me-up.

Syros loukoumi

“Our loukoumi is the best you’ll find in all of Greece because of our fresh spring water,” says Andreas Leibadaras, a third-generation loukoumi-maker on the island.

The place

Designed by the renowned German architect Ernst Ziller, Syros’s neoclassical town hall is the place to head for that morning sugar and caffeine hit.

Ask for directions to the café to enjoy loukoumi in a beautiful kafeneion (coffee house), framed with grand archways and filled with locals sipping coffee at marble tables.

Take some home from Leibadaras at Syros port, where you’ll find a mountain of pink cubes caked in caster sugar.

The vibe

As the capital of the Cycladic islands, Syros has a more buzzing atmosphere helped by its own university and the students who bring energy to an otherwise serene spot.

It combines a cosmopolitan crowd (head to Boheme del Mar bar at Ermoupoli port for a taste of this) with that traditional Greek island chill-factor for the best of both worlds.

Make sure you venture down the narrow walkways of Ano Syros, a medieval settlement with pretty whitewashed houses near Ermoupoli.

READ MORE: Loukoumi, the pride of Syros.

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