Food in Crete is slightly different to what you’ll find on mainland Greece. This is, I’d imagine purely a regional differences thing and what harm?! There’s still all the classic Greek meals with a Cretan twist- more delicious food to try.
- Greek/Cretan Salad
So this is an obvious one because Greek salads are renowned but the real deal is even better than you think! Your standard Greek salad will have fresh salad-suitable veggies; tomatoes, cucumber, red onions and peppers. Often there’ll be olives in there too and lastly, a big slab of creamy feta cheese on top. Over that, olive oil and some herbs. There tends not to be lettuce of any variety in this version (so it’s quite different to what we’d have at home).
The Cretan version, appears to be a “chuck everything in the fridge in” type of thing. There’s everything from potatoes, croutons, capers, eggs, onions and avocados alongside the usual Greek salad base in these (not all at the same time, mind- in different restaurants versions there can be anything!) After we tried it once, we had to get it again and again. It’s delicious.
This is also an obvious one, cause it’s probably the second meal you think of when you think ‘Greek food’. A traditional Greek dish, that has similarities to lasagna, Moussaka is alternate layers of minced beef or lamb in a tomato based sauce, aubergine and a creamy béchamel sauce, topped with cheese. It’s usually served in individual baked containers with bread or salad on the side. A word of warning with this one- it’s super filling! If you aren’t that hungry, share this and a Cretan salad between two of you and you’ll be happy out!
3. Fresh Seafood
Practically everywhere we looked in Crete, there was fishing boats, so it was high on our food list to try lots of fresh fish. A couple of places had prawns on the menu, but when we asked we were told they were frozen. If you ask for what the fresh fish is, you can get a good idea of what’s on offer.
4. Anything Aubergine related.
I’ve mentioned Moussaka already and as aubergine is a common vegetable in Crete, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding them in lots of other dishes too. These three specifically were very good; Imam is a stuffed aubergine dish with tomatoes, onions and a local cheese, usually feta. This is then baked and the aubergine becomes soft and melt-in-your-mouth. Melitzanosalata is the middle photo, it’s an aubergine dip with garlic, lemon juice, red onion and pepper. We were served it with capers and crusty brown bread. It’s incredibly moreish. Lastly there is another baked aubergine, tomato and feta dish with another local cheese over the top. I can’t recall the name of this one but it’s pure comfort food. You need to try all three! If you see the word “aubergine” on a Cretan menu, get whatever it is. Trust.
5. Dakos or Greek Bruschetta
This is basically is the Greek version of everyone’s favourite Italian bread & tomato starter. With this, the norm is crisp, twice-baked bread slices, topped with fresh tomatoes, olives, red onions, occasionally cucumber, mixed with red wine vinegar and olive oil and finished off with lots of crumbled feta. Yum.
I don’t eat lamb but Cilian does, so he was in his element in Crete, where there tends to be lots of lamb, chicken and seafood on the menu. It seems mostly to be cooked classically in olive oil and herbs in a clay dish called Kleftiko, except for the second photo where it was baked in a parcel with potatoes and other vegetables.
This is similar to tapas or antipasti and you can order all of these individually as starters also. In there you can see the afore mentioned Dakos and Melitzonsalata, alongside stuffed vine leaves (stuffed with rice, garlic and herbs), hummus, tzatziki, the two pastries are Kalitsounia– one is filled with spinach (although these can be any green vegetable), while the other is filled with cheese.
8. Greek Desserts/Breakfasts
I’m putting these together because the breakfast I’m about to tell you about is basically a a dessert. Don’t give out to me, Greek peeps! I am of course, referring to Greek yoghurt with honey and walnuts. Don’t even bother recreating this at home, you won’t find yoghurt, honey or even walnuts that are comparable to what you’ll get in Crete. Coupled with a a strong coffee, it’s the best way to start the day.
Dessert wise, we never actually ordered any from a menu, it seems to be the case that every restaurant serves you something sweet along with a lethal shot of raki after your main meal, completey gratuitously. This was a seriously lovely touch and it meant we got to try lots of really good Cretan treats. Our favourites were this crepe sandwich; filled with a soft sweet cheese and honey. My god, this was good. Buttery and crisp and sweet. So, so good. The Greek delight (rose and citrus flavoured) was also delicious.
9. Chicken Souvlaki
Not to be confused with Gyros, another popular meat item (that’s more street food, like a kebab), souvlaki is any meat with vegetables (often peppers), on a skewer, grilled. These are quite simple really, but with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a salad (ignore the few sneaky chips), it tastes healthy and filling.
10. Greek Wine
Although we drank a lot of Raki (similar to Italian Grappa and just as lethal) after every meal, we really enjoyed the Cretan wine that was available. Our waiter explained that because of its high altitude vines and grapes grown alongside herbs, this particular wine has a pleasingly unique taste. This obviously differs from region to region but any we did try were really good.
Although there’s plenty more we could talk about here, that’s our top 10 for Cretan foods you must try! If we’ve forgotten anything you think is a glaring omission, please do let us know in the comments!
Chloe & Cilian.