For the arid and rocky Kalymnos, the sea has always been the only exit for residents. Generously, it provided the locals with its valuable sponges, which they gratefully began harvesting. Exactly when Kalymnians started sponge diving is lost in the mists of time. But today, they have one of the largest fishing fleets in the Aegean and produce about 30,000 sponges annually.
Beautiful Kalymnos, an international climbing destination, is where you can discover new types of seafood and savor fresh catch that is on your plate just hours after being fished. Try octopus dipped in ouzo, sun-dried lobster-tail, sea squirts (fouskes), pickled marine invertebrates (spinialo), and an amazing meze made with pen shells, sea urchins, and skate preserved in seawater. There are more familiar dishes too like grilled octopus, octopus stifado (stewed in tomato sauce with bulb onions), htapokeftedes (fried octopus balls), stuffed calamari, and fish cooked in almost every imaginable way.
Kalymnos is also known for its barley rusks which provided sustenance to sponge divers and karkani (a salad of skate and mayonnaise). Local cuisine does include meat dishes.
Fried hare with garlic puree (skordalia) is delicious albeit less well-known as maouri – stuffed lamb cooked in a sealed clay pot and usually served at Easter.
All these dishes are enhanced by bread kneaded with anise and ouzo.
There are also dolmades and mirmizeli (barley rusk rubbed with olive oil and topped with chopped fresh tomatoes and cheese).
Kalymnos wine, which is rather strong, pairs well with these dishes.