10 Foods and Drinks of Paros and Naxos that You’ll Love!
They are lesser known, more verdant, and amazingly versatile as holiday destinations: you can combine the cosmopolitan and the traditional, adventure and leisure, luxury and authenticity, romance and family, stunningly gorgeous beaches and interesting hiking paths, while also avoiding the crowds.
Situated at the very center of the Cyclades, Paros and Naxos are popular with the locals for those exact reasons, and, of course, the amazing food. Both islands have a rich history that goes back to neolithic times. From vineyards and a thriving fishing culture to the unique demands of growing produce locally, Parians and Naxians developed their own niche version of the famous Greek cuisine.
Certain local products, such as cheese, wine, and a special variety of local potatoes, are renowned all over Greece for their quality and taste. The special local dishes that these unique products yield are simply irresistible. All that history, culture, experience, local conditions, and love of good food is what makes Naxos and Paros prime culinary destinations.
And if you’re up for fine dining, you will get plenty of options of that, too! There are just so many delicious dishes to try, but you have to start somewhere! This short list of must-have dishes is the best gateway to discovering the amazing tastes of Naxos and Paros.
The Culinary Heritage of Paros and Naxos
Both islands have been integral to the trading and communication among all the Cyclades. But they also served as a bridge between the East and a good part of the Greek peninsula.
Paros became extremely affluent thanks to its renowned Parian marble, which was used for religious buildings and sculptures. Being on trade routes also helped Parians develop a melting pot of flavors and methods for cooking that blended through the ages. The importance of this island remained prominent during the Byzantine Era and later when it was occupied by the Venetians and, a few centuries later, by the Ottomans.
These influences remained strong into modern times, where a cosmopolitan atmosphere began to prevail and tourism became an important part of the local economy. Cheese, wine, and fish are staples for Parian cuisine, combined with local legumes and vegetables for unique pies, casseroles, and combinations.
Naxos has a similar history, with the added element of religious importance, as evidenced by the effigies found there, similar to those found in Delos, the most sacred of islands for the Ancient Greeks.
The cuisine of the island began with a culture of livestock raising and interbreeding in antiquity, and was characterized by the unique Naxian potato and Naxian cheese. Fricassees and roasts with the opulent side dishes are what you should look for on Naxos, coupled with salads and vegetable dishes to balance out the meal.
When visiting these islands, look out for the following renowned dishes.
1. Kakavia from Paros
You may think that fish soup is a pedestrian meal, but you’d be wrong! This very special fish soup is a traditional fisherman’s meal that developed through the ages. Fishermen would only eat that part of their catch that they couldn’t sell, including fish that were too small or were a species that didn’t appeal to customers. They would cook several different fish together in a big pot, making an extremely fragrant and tasty stock in which they would then cook potato and celery.
For it to be called kakavia, the soup must have at least eight different fish, from scorpion fish and white seabream to combers, rainbow wrasses, and several types of mullets.
2. Gardoumia from Naxos
This may be a bit of a controversial dish in the EU, since it’s technically prohibited; but not for Greece and certainly not for Naxos! It’s considered one of the staple delicacies of the island and served for any kind of important gathering. In the rest of Greece, it’s considered an Easter food, thanks to its opulent flavor.
Gardoumia is made from the belly of lamb, cut in strips and mixed with the animal’s innards. Then, it all is made into a sausage-like shape by wrapping intestines very thickly and very tightly all around the meat.
The intestines are meticulously cleaned, washing them until “milk white”, otherwise they’re not considered fit for the dish. The gardoumia can be roasted, fried, boiled, or baked, depending on the version of the dish and the particular area of Naxos. Make sure you taste it in all versions!
3. Stuffed Squid from Naxos
Stuffed squid is the absolute comfort food that’s also quite nutritional and healthy. It’s made of squid stuffed with a special mix of rice and chopped up squid, herbs, onions, and garlic.
It’s then cooked twice, once over very a high heat for a few seconds, then slowly over a low heat to allow all the juices and flavors to blend into a balanced, fragrant, delicious meal.
4. Sefoukloti (Chard Pie) from Naxos
This unique pie can be savory or sweet, and has a filling of chards. Made with special hand-kneaded phyllo, if it’s sweet there will be raisins, cinnamon, and sesame in the filling, and a lot of caramelized sugar.
If it’s savory, there will be a variety of herbs and cheese. Both versions are very fragrant and surprisingly tasty. You haven’t had chards like these before!
5. Revithada (Chickpea Stew) from Paros
Chickpeas are generally a staple of Paros, cooked frequently and for large family or neighborhood gatherings. You will be served revithada for panigyria (saints’ commemoration days) and for other celebrations. They make a lush, rich dish that manages to be healthy and nutritious.
Chickpeas are cooked in olive oil and tomato, with herbs to add fragrance. Tradition has it that they are cooked slowly overnight in a stew, so they are tender and melt in the mouth when ready to serve.
6. Gouna (Suncooked Fish) from Paros
Gouna is a traditional way for Parian fishermen to prepare fish for the grill. The fish are sun-dried for hours under the scorching summer sun, pre-cooking it to the point that its flavor changes. Usually, fish high in fat are used, especially varieties of mackerel.
The fish are scaled, gutted, and cleaned in brine – traditionally, they were cleaned and brined in seawater – then left to dry under the sun. This made the fish tender and succulent, and ready for the grill. The result is an irresistible appetizer with a texture and flavor you won’t have tasted before!
7. Rosto from Naxos
Rosto is a popular Naxian dish that is much loved all over Greece. It is tender pork, cooked slowly in a pot with oil, tomato, and garlic over a low heat. It cooks for as long as it takes for the meat to become very soft and imbued with its own juices and those of the sauce.
It is served with fresh buttered pasta that is often pre-mixed in with the rosto sauce.
8. Melachrino from Naxos
Melachrino is probably the most famous Naxian dessert. It’s name means “the brunette one” because it’s very dark thanks to the cocoa it contains. It’s a unique type of walnut cake that is scented with the local citrus liquor that is only made on the island.
The cake also has cinnamon and cloves, to add to the aroma, and is then doused in honey and sugar syrup, for that extra sense of rich opulence. It’s a great conclusion to a hearty meal or an excellent side to your coffee in the afternoon.
9. Sweet Mitzithropita from Paros
If Greece has an ethnic cheesecake, this is it! The Parian mitzithropita is a delicious dessert made with honey, mastic, and cinnamon mixed with a soft white cheese called mitzithra. Although called a pie, no dough is involved. It’s just the mix of the ingredients with the household’s favorite blend of nuts, baked into a fluffy perfection you will absolutely love.
Learn more about traditional Greek desserts.
10. Drinks from Paros and Naxos
Citrus fruit liqueur from Naxos: The island is famous for its unique citrus fruit liqueur, which comes in three varieties. They are used in many of the island’s staple dishes for extra fragrance and flavor, and they are served as after-meal treats together with dessert.
Souma from Paros: Souma is an incredibly potent alcoholic drink made from grapes and rivals ouzo, tsipouro, and raki in the punch it packs. Consume carefully, and with the appropriate food!
PDO wines from Paros: With a wine making heritage that heralds from ancient times, the wines of Paros are considered some of the highest quality. Make sure to sample the white Monemvasia wine, which is considered the cream of the crop, as well as the Paros Reserve, made from a combination of Monemvasia and Mandilaria varieties.
Paros and Naxos are the Cyclades’ unadulterated gems, waiting for you to discover them on all levels, from natural beauty to gorgeous beaches to incredible heritage and history to excellent food of amazing variety. This short list only scratches the surface of the wealth of flavor that awaits you, so make sure to explore even more with every taverna you visit!
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