/Northern Cyprus' Culinary Delights

Northern Cyprus' Culinary Delights

I just got back from a glorious week in the Northern Cyprus. The northern part of the island is a Turkish speaking republic, a nation which is legally divided from the Greek speaking southern part of the island. I suspect some of the Northern Cypriot culinary specialties I encountered during my trip are part of the Greek tradition, as well, but I did not pass to the Greek part of Cyprus so a full comparison will have to wait until my next trip.

Dinner at Hanife's house

My official introduction to Turkish Cypriot dining culture came during a feast at my friend Serdar’s aunts house. His Aunt Hanife is a prolific cook famous for her traditional recipes and börek (she even had her own börek shop for a time). At first when I suggested to Serdar that we have his aunts participate in a cook off, he suggested that the others would surrender and Hanife would win hands down. So we went to Hanife’s for dinner and arrived to find a massive spread of traditional dishes. Here is what we ate:

Dinner at Hanife's house

Tarhana: the classic recipe for this soup calls for crushed tomatoes, but the Cypriot version is made with yogurt, milk, and cracked wheat. Hanife served it with croutons and bits of halloumi. A common way to prepare tarhana is to cook the soup in advance, let it dry for a few days, store, and rehydrate when needed.

Dinner at Hanife's house

Börek: These lightly fried pockets are Hanife’s specialty. She prepared them with three different fillings: halloumi and herbs, minced meat and onions, and nor (a bland local cheese) mixed with sugar and mastic.

Dinner at Hanife's house

Çiçek dolması: These squash blossoms are filled with a rich mixture of rice, onions, tomatoes and herbs.

Fırında makarna: Pasta baked with minced meat, onions, cinnamon, and a creamy mild cheese sauce.

Dinner at Hanife's house

Gappar: The leaves from caper plants are brined and taste just like capers.

Dinner at Hanife's house

Molehiya: This stew is made with molehiya (a green leafy plant), chicken, tomatoes and stock. It is a classic Cypriot dish today, but its origins lie elsewhere. There is a bit of disagreement about where the recipe comes from. I found Africa, Egypt, and the Arab world as contenders in a preliminary search.

During our travels in the rest of northern Cyprus we encountered other typical dishes including:

Karpaz Peninsula, N Cyprus

Halloumi: Cyprus’ most famous food is a brined cheese that is often served grilled.

Karpaz Peninsula, N Cyprus

Şeftali Kebabı: The so-called “peach kebab” is minced meat wrapped in the fatty abdominal netting of a lamb’s abdomen. It is known for its succulence.

Karpaz Peninsula, N Cyprus

Mezes: Local olives, yogurt with herbs, beetroot, and hummus are typical starters.

For more on N Cyprus cuisine check out this website

Photo credit: Thanks to Serdar Ferit for his portrait of Aunt Hanife and lending me his lenses for the other shots.

2017-02-17T15:27:18+00:00 June 7th, 2011|Categories: Culture, Gastronomic Traditions, North Cyprus|10 Comments


  1. gezicini June 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    As a Turkish woman from Ankara, I have never been in Cyprus. But as far as I have seen this delicious food, I would like to visit Northern Cyprus as soon as possible!
    Thank you so much!

  2. Michele - cypruspictures June 11, 2011 at 8:50 am - Reply

    Great website!

    I found it totally by accident on twitter and am now following you. We’re planning a visit to the North on Monday as it’s a public holiday in Cyprus for the Greek celebrations of Kataklysmos so I get a day off work 🙂

    Usually, we cross through on foot at the Ledra Street crossing point and have a walk around the shops and the central square in the Turkish occupied part of Nicosia. Then a visit and a nosy around Buyuk Han (Ottoman travellers inn) followed by lunch at the Meze Bar restaurant tucked away in a courtyard cafe at the back of Buyuk Han.

    I usually go for the kofta meatballs on a bed of pitta with salad and chips. mmmm, feeling hungry already.


  3. Katie June 11, 2011 at 10:39 pm - Reply

    @gezicini i hope you make it there soon! apparently july and august are very crowded and sept and oct are lovely. report back, please:)

    @Michele Kataklysmos sounds intense and i can only imagine there is some etymological link to the word cataclysm! My friends were actually married in the Buyuk Han though i never did see it fully operational, as all the shops closed for the event. maybe next time! Enjoy your day off!

  4. Paola April 29, 2012 at 8:20 am - Reply

    I was reading your blog for tips on Rome food ( which I found extremely helpful by the way), and came across this post. I just wanted to clear something out. I am from Cyprus (the free part of Cyprus and the only part there is). The northern part (ie Turkish occupied), is NOT a republic and definitely not a legal state, but a pseudostate, as it is not recognized by any other country except Uzbekistan.. It is an ongoing issue since 1974 and the main reason why Turkey can’t enter EU. Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots used to live together and form the island of Cyprus until there was a civil war 40 years ago that gave an opportunity to Turkish troops to come into the island, turn thousands of cypriots into refugees and take one third of Cyprus by force.
    Both parts of Cyprus (free and occupied) are equally pretty and food is indeed fantastic.

  5. Al March 14, 2014 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    Wonderful article. Having visited both sides the North
    is less commercialised and the cuisine more authentic
    and considerably cheaper to dine out.You will find No chains like Mcdonalds or starbucks in the north whereas the south is just full of tacky places and its much harder to find good quality food.

  6. Elizabeth June 10, 2014 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    My very first time on your blog site, congratulations for capturing and portraying the amazing spirit of the Turkish Cypriot cuisine and its kind and warm people. Having worked and lived in many countries across four continents, Northern Cyprus is the only place i feel nostalgic about. The cuisine reflects its complex history which you have captured. Reading your blog i felt transported to Cyprus and can see the kind faces of its beautiful people! Thanks

  7. Leah Ashe July 31, 2015 at 11:20 am - Reply

    Dear Katie,

    I used to live in Italy and loved your writing about Italian food … now I’ve just stumbled upon your piece here about Northern Cyprus. Great!

    A question for you, if you don’t mind: In much of the Mediterranean it’s common to find weekly markets (often farmer’s markets, though sometimes weekly ‘bazaars”) … Did you see these in Northern Cyprus? In other words: if you were going to stay in North Cyprus for a period, where you would you access fresh fruit, veg, fish, etc.?

    Thanks … and bravo again for your great writing!


    • Katie July 31, 2015 at 8:25 pm - Reply

      Hey Leah, I dont know any markets per se, but there are plenty of road side stands and villages generally have at least weekly markets

  8. Leah Ashe July 31, 2015 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    Hi Katie,
    Thanks for your comment – and your great writing! I’ll be on the lookout for those stands and markets … there’s nothing I like better in a new place than finding a new-to-me wild-herb-from-the-nearby-hillside …
    Keep up the great work!

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