Like all of Crete, Chania is a foodie destination that leaves visitors dreaming of what they ate there for years on end. Although modern cuisine has altered the city’s culinary profile, tradition and the comforting deliciousness of foods made with fresh, seasonal local products prevail. There are many wonderful ingredients and dishes to try in Chania, but here we highlight the dishes you shouldn’t miss out on.
Cheese lovers will not be disappointed in Chania, where a variety of cheeses are produced using cow’s, sheep’s, or goat’s milk, with blends of two milk types being quite common. Hard cheeses like “graviera” and “kefalotyri” are popular choices and are also used grated to top pasta dishes. Soft cheese enthusiasts will also find plenty of options, including “manouri” and “anthotyro”, a light, creamy cheese that according to Greek mythology, was first made by Polyphemus.
“Staka” is a traditional food that is exclusively Cretan and is used to flavour many dishes in Chania. This Cretan dairy product is made by boiling the fatty layer of sheep’s or goat’s milk, which yields two products: clarified butter, known as stakovoutyro, and the thick white protein residue, staka. You’ll taste staka in many Cretan dishes such as pasta, rice, soups, stews, and pies, as a dip or side dish, or with eggs, bread, and “apaki” (a cured meat).
Meat & Fish Dishes
Roasted meat is popular in Chania, especially goat and lamb. “Stifado” is a delicious meat-based dish that is cooked in all of Greece but is especially loved in Crete. This slow-cooked food includes beef, rabbit, pork, or lamb, stewed with onions, red wine, and tomatoes, and seasoned with oregano, rosemary, and cinnamon. It is commonly served with Cretan bread or on a bed of orzo pasta. In Chania, some of the most popular fish and seafood dishes are grilled calamari, which is stuffed with feta cheese, and seafood “saganaki”. The latter is made by simmering seafood with tomatoes, spicy peppers, ouzo, and feta cheese.
Other Traditional Cretan Specialties
“Sfakianopita” or ‘Sfakia pie’ is similar to a pancake that is eaten either in a savoury rendition or a sweet one (drizzled in honey). “Kaltsounia” (small, sweet cheese pies) are traditionally filled with savoury or sweet cheese (in the latter version they are topped with honey). “Gamopilafo” is a rice dish that’s traditionally served at weddings and is made using a rich, flavoursome goat or lamb stock. “Dakos” is one of Crete’s most famous foods, and is made using a hard rusk that has been soaked in water and is then topped with fresh chopped tomato, mizithra cheese and a generous glug of Cretan extra virgin olive oil. “Boubouristi” snails are a very popular local dish that’s prepared in different ways, but most commonly with fresh herbs like rosemary, tomato, courgettes and/or potatoes and vinegar. Another popular favourite in Chania is the “Boureki”, a baked vegetarian dish made with courgette, potato, mizithra cheese and herbs like mint.
The Cretans love their desserts, and Chania offers plenty of mouthwatering options. The ones to definitely try are traditional sweets like “xerotigana” (rolled dough-strips that are deep fried and drizzled in syrup or honey and sprinkled with walnuts), “bougatsa,” an indulgent cream pie made with phyllo pastry and topped with powdered sugar and cinnamon and “zoumero” a syrupy chocolate cake (it’s not by chance that its name means ‘juicy’).
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