What To Eat
There are a number of dishes that seem to be well kept secrets – tranlsations on menus can be vague and off-putting, The following are worth seeking out and trying:
Boiled Greens (stamnagathi & vlita): the thought of boiled greens is not so very inspiring but the reality is very different; stamnagathi is a variety of dandelion with a slightly bitter taste while vlita (leafy amarinth for the curious) is gentle and aromatic; both are excellent with salt, pepper, lemon and olive oil; usually served warm in Crete they are perhaps better eaten cold (certainly in summer) though you need to ask for them ot to be heated up.
Kaltsounia: these are small pastries, usually savoury and filled with local greens and herbs, or with a mixture of greens and cheese, or with just cheese, occasionally with onions. A great finger snack for mid morning.
Fava: a puree of dry split yellow peas; sounds about as appetising as boiled greens but is just as delicious: served with lemon, oil and chopped onion.
Tisghariasto: very simply lamb or goat slowly braised with olive oil. Delicious.
Gigantes: translates as “giants” – these are large, flat white beans cooked in the oven with a herby tomato sauce.
Koutsomoures: a small variety of red mullet, sadly not in season during the high summer months – simply dusted in flour and fried in olive oil.
Grilled squid: when squid is fresh it is often served grilled – healthier than fried squid, lighter on the stomach and delicious with or without a squeeze of lemon.
Staka: peculiar to Crete, this cholestorol bomb is a glutinous mass of the richest part of the butter making process; served warm on its own or sometimes with chips; not for the faint hearted.Dakos: a bowl-shaped Cretan risk topped with chopped tomatoes, mizithra cream cheese and a drizzle of olive; the result will depend on the quality of ingredients; an excellent light lunch.
Pantsetes: from the Italian pancetta, these are strips of belly of pork generously seasoned and grilled; simple, calorific, tasty.
Tsikoudia, or Raki: this is the potent local spirit that you will be served to you chilled and on the house at the end of any meal. Strong and supposedly good for the digestion, it is an acquired taste and is similar to grappa.
Paidhakia: paidhakia are humble lamb chops but it is important to understand the difference between the local variety and what would be served in Western Europe, North America, Australia, etc. The most prized lamb chop in Greece is fairly fatty and chewy and grilled with oregano and lemon to very well done. The result is surprisingly delicous and likely to have you gnawing bones.
Patsas (tripe soup): listed more as a curiosity than a recommendation, this is another glutinous mass, though rather healthier than Staka. It is respected as the ultimate hangover cure and served from the back entrances of the covered market’s restaurants from around 5.00 a.m.
Frozen yoghurt: very refreshing and available from a number of outlets that have been sprouting up around Chania like mushrooms; good on its own or with a topping of nuts and/or fruit and/or sweet sauces; refreshes and settles you nicely after a heavy meal. Like ice cream without the guilt.