Image from www.ergastiri.gr
When in Rome do as the Romans – meaning that when you are visiting another place, you should follow the customs of the people in that place. If you are planning a holiday at the Adeste Luxury Villas, here’s what to eat in Chania to get immersed in the local rhythms, culture and cadences
“The people of Crete, unfortunately, make more history than they can consume locally”, British writer Hector Hugh Munro (aka Saki) once wrote. Cretans also – this time, fortunately – produce a surplus of edible goods of the highest order, thanks to their island’s blessed weather conditions and terrain.
Packed with flavours and aromas, these fruits of the land – and the gifts of the sea that’s right in their backyard – form the basis of the fabled Cretan Nutrition. This Cretan Nutrition has been recognised since the 1960s as the international paragon of health and taste, due to the world-famous Seven Countries Study: the first major study to investigate diet and lifestyle along with other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, across contrasting countries and over a period of 50 years.
Goodness aside, Crete’s celebrated cuisine is particularly tantalizing for the palate – and this makes for an unrivalled combination. With good food firmly on the top of holiday delights, here’s what to eat in Chania, for a savoury experience that will linger long in the memory.
What to eat in Chania
From snow-capped peaks and hidden villages to dramatic gorges and cerulean seas, Crete’s landscape has long inspired Gods and humans alike. This diversity has also shaped the island’s food culture. In the waterfront town of Chania, you’ll feast on seafood and vegetables cooked in a variety of simple but ingenious ways. Meals here are social, rowdy affairs with lots of lighthearted banter, plate sharing and clinking of glasses full of raki. And if you move towards the prefecture’s mountains you’ll find that the food becomes wilder – though the sense of camaraderie remains. Foraging knowledge is deeply rooted in the people of the high lands, and their traditional tavernas tucked away in almost secret villages, serve massive platters of charcoal-grilled lamb cutlets, along with fresh-picked local greens and olive-oil-fried potatoes.
To whet your appetite just a little further here’s a sneak preview of what you’ll eat in Chania, on the seafront and in the mountains.
What to eat in Chania: 8 + 1 delicacies you should not go without
If you’re lucky you will find sea urchins in one of the tavernas lining the post-card perfect old port of Chania – and if you’re luckier still, you’ll be treated to this aphrodisiac delicacy, off-menu, as the crowning of your meal, should a local restaurateur takes a liking to you. Supercharged with taste, sea urchins are enjoyed simply with lemon, olive oil and a thick slice of fresh bread.
Breakfast for Chaniots means a slice of just-out-of-the-oven bougatsa – a salty cheese curd pastry topped with lots of sugar. Try it at Bougatsa Iordanis in the centre of the old town.
Served almost everywhere, Dakos is the ever-popular Cretan meze made with dried barley bread slices slightly soaked in water, topped with grated fresh tomatoes and creamy mizithra cheese (similar to ricotta) and finished with olive oil and oregano.
Fried snails (Chochlioi boubouristi)
Like the French, Cretans adore snails. And they have been doing so since time immemorial. In the Cretan dialect, chochlios means snail, and in this case, they are fried with flour and hot olive oil in a pan, then doused with wine (or vinegar) and sprinkled with a dash of wild rosemary. One of the most popular local delicacies, they are served in most restaurants and tavernas – but if you’re looking for their just-perfect version try Dounias, a centre of Cretan gastronomy tucked away in a small hamlet in the White Mountains.
Cretan Cheese Pies (Kaltsounia)
Crete’s cheese pies are unique. For starters, handmade pastry dough is a prerequisite. The fillings vary, it is usually mizithra or malaka cheese, but not feta. Also, they are often topped with thick Cretan honey, blending sweet and savoury in one heady mix. You’ll find them in the restaurants in town and in the villages’ cafes (kafeneia).
A hymn to simple cooking – ask a local and they’ll quip “if the dish has more than five ingredients, it is not Cretan” – the boureki is made with zucchini, potatoes and xynomyzithra – and sometimes includes filo pastry. Though it can be found almost everywhere, one of its best variants is served in the aforementioned Dounias – a family tavern and farm that advocates the slow food movement.
If you take a trip to Chania’s countryside you’ll invariably bump into kid goats. Theirs is the meat that Cretans prefer and in Sfakia they turn them into the most delectable stew. It is plainly cooked in olive oil and extinguished with wine or raki. But it requires loads of patience as it should be cooked at a very low temperature for a long time. You’ll find this delicacy in one of the beaten path tavernas tucked away in this rugged, dramatically beautiful county of Chania.
Chania’s culinary trademark is no other than the famous gamopilafo – thus named as it is always served at weddings (gamos, in Greek). This is in fact the best place to try it. At a wedding reception or at a local home. It is the food which is associated with every joyful occasion – weddings, parties, friends gatherings, birthdays, and anniversaries. Once again an ode to simplicity – therein is where the greatness of Cretan cuisine lies – essentially it is boiled meat with rice. Of course, each homemaker puts their own signature on this dish – some prefer it without butter, others with loads of lemon and many with some local yoghourt. But it should be almost al dente, quite creamy, and not too greasy nor washy. There are several restaurants in Chania that’ll prepare this delicacy upon order – but you can always ask our concierge to match you with a local chef who’ll cook it and serve it in the privacy of your luxury Chania villa.
How will you be rounding off your meal? Made of crispy dough drenched in syrup and sprinkled with nuts, sesame seeds, and cinnamon, this crunchy dessert was once reserved for Christmas but is nowadays served on other celebratory occasions. Make sure to sample them if you are invited to a Cretan wedding, baptism, or engagement. You can also find them in various deli stores in Chania and in the town’s municipal market. Or you can use our custom app to have them – as well as anything else that catches your fancy – delivered right at your Adeste villa.
We do our best to make life sweet at the Adeste luxury villas in Chania – and you’re just about to find out. Until it’s time to welcome you to the incredible island of Crete, stay tuned to our blog for more delicious tips and insights.