Get ready for a Mediterranean gastronomy tour like no other. While Crete has become famous worldwide for its healthy and tasty Mediterranean Diet, its lesser known neighbor Karpathos has equally delightful culinary surprises that are just as healthy. The island is big on seafood from its untouched turquoise seas, free-range chicken and meat, wild greens, exceptional sea salt, aromatic herbs, quality olive oil, delicious breads, and a myriad fruits and vegetables of course.
It is not uncommon to see women mill wheat or barley on traditional stone mills to make homemade pasta, such as the variety called Makarounes. These are served with onion and fried in olive oil with dry Mizithra cheese to create a mouthwatering pasta dish. This tasty cheese also goes into a wonderful cheese pie (Myzithropita), and there are a variety of local cheeses to sample across the island.
Stuffed baby squash flowers (Kolokythoanthi) and lentil rice with onions (fakorizo) will delight vegetarians, so will small pies called Kopeles that are stuffed with greens. Seafood lovers will certainly delight in the parrotfish found off the coast and cooked to perfection.
You can even derive a culinary experience from a visit to a traditional coffee house where you can drink some ouzo while grazing on anchovies and Manouli (hard goat cheese). The panoply of dishes on offer range from a unique version of Trahana soup (with tomato) to escargot with dill and bay leaves. Noteworthy is the herb Krithamos (known elsewhere in Greece as Kritamos) growing near the sea and paired beautifully with salads and seafood dishes. More adventurous meat-eaters might come across the rare dish of Anterizia or Anderizia that is made from intestines and meat cooked in spices and different flavors, then served with rice.
Best in bread
Karpathos is famous for its breads, such as sesame bread rings and onion bread (Kremidopsomo). Villages still bake in wood ovens, especially in the traditional town of Olympos. There are savory bread varieties with different ingredients such as cumin or pepper, as well as sweet bread varieties with cinnamon, mastic or clove. During Easter you'll love the Christ's bread (Christopsomo) sesame and what the Greek's called black sesame (Mavrosousamo) which is really the seeds of the fennel flower. You should also try the sweet bread with a red-dyed egg in the center if you're on the island close to Easter time.
You'll be eating well during feasts and holidays on the island. If you happen to be in Karpathos during a wedding, baptismal ceremony or other celebration, you might be lucky to taste a delicious fish called Pasti Menoula, a tasty small fish related to the sea bream and generally caught in February's cold waters. Easter brings forth a lamb or goat dish called Vizanti stuffed with rice and herbs, cooked slowly in a clay pot. After such a meal sweeten your tooth with Easter 'Tourtes', made of lightly sweet leavened bread, aniseed and sweet Mizithra cheese.
Christmas also features delicacies, such stuffed turkey with a Karpathian twist, as well as beef or goat in tomato sauce slowly cooked together with bulgur. A pork dish called 'Pichti' is also on the Christmas menu, complete with plenty of herbs and spices such as bay leaf, pepper and cumin, together with lemon juice. On the sweeter side you may get to try Paklava – a different version of Baklava – representing a fried dessert with honey, cinnamon and clove. Christmas is well known for a raisin dessert called Zimpilia (pronounced Zibilia) that should be sampled.
Home cooking brings with it a good variety of sweet delicacies such as Moschopougia, representing crescent-shaped cookies stuffed with walnuts or almonds. Karpathos also boasts delicious Takakia, a fried doughy dessert topped with support. You will always find varieties of Baklava, as well as sweet cheese pies called Myzithropita. Sweet triangle-shaped cheese pastries will delight those with a sweet tooth, so will the Sissamomeli, a dessert that combines honey and sesame in sinful ways.