During your stay on the island, make sure to try these delicious, mouth-watering foods that Kalymnos is known for. You won’t be disappointed.
#1 Mermizeli (traditional Kalymnian salad)
This is a salad that you will most definitely find at every tavern or restaurant you visit on the island. It contains ingredients that are native to Kalymnos and in a sense; you “taste” the island by trying this salad.
It’s similar to the traditional Horiatiki (Greek village salad), but with the addition of kouloures (dried, homemade barley rusk), fresh local caper leaves and topped off with kopanisti, which is smooth cheese spread freshly made from goat or sheep’s milk.
To top it all off, most places will sprinkle some fresh thrimpi (Kalymnian oregano) over top, giving it that robust, herbal flavor. Every restaurant has its own way of showcasing the “island’s” salad, so make sure to try it at different places! One restaurant in particular that serves an outstanding Mermizeli is O’ Sfougaras in Vlychadia.
#2 Xtapodokeftedes (octopus meatballs)
Yes, you read that correctly. These are absolutely delicious, especially for those seafood lovers out there. Don’t get fooled by the name, there isn’t any meat in these meatballs, but they are similar in shape and consistency, hence the name.
Xtapodokeftedes are made from boiling octopus (normally just the tentacles), and kneading them into a mixture while adding fresh ingredients such as garlic, parsley and onion. After rolling them in flour, they are lightly fried and served with a wedge of lemon.
#3 Fila (stuffed vine leaves, the Kalymnian way)
These are essentially Kalymnos’ own version of the ever popular dolmades, or as the Kalymnians call them, fila (just means leaves).
One thing that makes them unique to the island is of course the vine leaf itself, which grows on the island. Another characteristic of fila is their shape, which is small and cylindrical, and not rectangular and large.
Most restaurants will feature them with ground beef and rice (with the addition of other spices and love as well), but you may find some vegetarian ones if you’re lucky. Try Harry’s Paradise Garden in Emporios, they will most likely have a vegetarian version, and they are delicious and absolutely Kalymnian.
#4 Kalymnian thyme honey
We may be biased, but we think that Kalymnos has the best honey on earth. Not only is it delicious, but it is also unique due to how it’s made. It’s made from thyme (in Greek: thimari), which is basically fresh thyme that grows on the mountains on Kalymnos.
During the summer months, the honey is harvested and sourced by the locals. The honey is thick, rich, and quite vibrant on the palate. You will find it everywhere, whether in tourist shops, cafes, or drizzled over fresh, hot cheese pies served at the Aegean Tavern in Masouri. Be sure to take some home with you! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
#5 Traditional cheeses
This is an absolute must when visiting the island, especially for those cheese lovers out there. You will of course find many of the familiar Greek cheeses on the island, but there are some that the Kalymnians make with their own recipes and good old tender, love, and care.
Kopanisti is a soft cheese normally made from goat’s milk, or sometimes even a mixture of goat, cow and sheep’s milk. The age-old process of kneading the curds with salt and then drying them takes a little more than a month, but produces delicious, soft, and intense cheese that is often used as a spread or in salads (as the Kalymnians do so in their Mermizeli salad).
Myzithra or mizithra is made with milk and whey from both sheep and goats. It’s often made into cylindrical-shaped pieces and found in small shops and grocery stores around the island. It’s different from kopansti: it’s not really a spreadable cheese, but it’s more of a soft cheese which can be sliced and enjoyed on a piece of fresh bread, perhaps.
Kalymnians also love enjoying myzithra alongside some freshly sliced watermelon (they do the same with feta as well). Furthermore, the cheese can be dried and grated, which then transforms it into somewhat of a “Greek parmesan”, so to speak. It’s absolutely perfect over some bolognese, a salad, or even pastitsio. Around the island, you’ll be sure to find this cheese used in more than one way.
#6 Galaktompoureko (Greek custard pie)
It’s tough to pronounce, but easy to eat. This delicious custard pie is found all over Greece, but again, we may be a little biased, but Kalymnians know how to make a mouth-watering galaktompoureko! This dessert is made with semolina custard which is glopped into between layers of filo dough on the top and the bottom.
As customary with the Greek desserts, this one also features a sweet syrup which is poured over top after it has been baked. It can be enjoyed hot and fresh out of the oven, but it is often served chilled since it can be a little messy at a hotter temperature.
Michalaras located in Pothia has been serving insanely delicious galaktompoureko for decades, as well as Vouros, who is also located in Pothia. Do yourself a favor, and visit one or both of these places and dive into one of Greece’s and Kalymnos’ most traditional and decadent desserts.
#7 Spinialo (marinated fouskes)
This one is only for the brave of heart, or rather, extreme seafood lovers (and I mean the ones who can appreciate the “taste” of the sea). Kalymnians on the other hand, don’t exactly see this next one as being “extreme” at all, but rather just another unique delicacy to the island.
Spinialo is made from gathering fouskes, which are small, little marine oyster-ish creatures that resemble a rock, and may be found at the bottom of both shallow and the deep sea. The inside of this is taken out, and let’s be honest, as first glance, it doesn’t look pleasant. However, looks can be deceiving, because they taste absolutely fresh and like the “sea” itself; salty and refreshing.
Spinialo contains fouskes which has been carefully removed and added into a bottle of seawater to marinate. It’s served with olive oil and lemon and these two ingredients only make it even more savory. As with oysters and other shellfish, these aren’t really chewed, but rather “lightly” chewed and simply swallowed. It’s hard to explain, we guess. But when in Kalymnos, try these for yourself and taste the sea.