A Albanian Cuisine

As I have discussed throughout the guide, Albania has a rich cultural heritage. Through the cuisine, you can experience not only the wonderful variety of delicious savory and sweet dishes but also the meaning and myths surrounding the ingredients and traditions of the diverse cultures.  At first glance Albanian food is heavily influenced by recent influx of Italians with plenty of pizzas and pasta dishes on offer. Albanian cuisine has always been heavily influenced by the very rich Mediterranean food in which the authentic flavours have been combined with the Turkish, Greek and Italian tastes. You will also enjoy the gastronomic indulgences of the Ottomans alongside the austere, minimalist influences of Communism thus bringing a great variety of tasty dishes. Favourites include charcoal grilled meats and vegetables with zesty yogurt sauce or Börek, filled with cheese, meat, caramelized onion or spinach followed by Baklava with its layers of filo pastry and nuts dripping in sweet honey or Revani, sweet semolina cake flavoured with orange flower water or rose water, all a legacy of the Ottoman empire. 

From the early settlers there has always been a strong connection with fresh local produce. Typical of the Albanian cuisine is fresh and seasonal with the extensive use of meat (lam, pork, goat, veal, chicken and rabbit), Mediterranean herbs (laurel, mint, oregano, black pepper, parsley and basil) and fresh vegetables all combined into mouth-watering dishes. Some favorite dishes to try include Pule me Arra which is chicken with walnuts; Fergesë Tirane with liver or veal cooked in cottage cheese and walnuts; or Tave Kosi which is baked lamb with yogurt. An important part of the Albanian cuisine is also reserved for freshwater fish specialties in the south and south-eastern regions of Albania, as well as for seafood specialties commonly found in the coastal cities of Durrës, Vlorë, Sarandë and Lezhë.  Be sure to try the local Tirana delicacy of Shkodra Lake Carp baked in the oven Shkodra style.

Aside from the salads, which consist of mainly fresh or steamed vegetables, dishes are mostly cooked or baked. Albanian cuisine uses all Mediterranean vegetables in almost every dish. Vegetables are usually cultivated locally and sold every day in the city markets. 

So now that you’ve had an overview of the cusine let me explain to you the average daily fare of three meals a day: breakfast, lunch and dinner, which is more like a supper. A typical Albanian breakfast is salty and serves scrambled or boiled eggs, cheese, butter, jam and bread. The main meal of the day is lunch with a salad, the main course and fruit or desert all laid at once on the table. There are many types of salads which vary depending on the season and the type of food they are going to be served with, but they are usually dressed with olive oil, salt, lemon or vinegar. The main course consists of either cooked (gjellë) or baked (tavë) meat and vegetables.

Different areas of Albania offer different food specialties; so in northern regions we mostly find the use of pickles and ricotta filled paprika as appetizers and typical dishes like Fli and Pulë me Qull as the main course. In the northern coast of Shkodra and Lezha it is served a special terracotta baked carp dish called KrapnëTjegull. Central Albania offers a wide variety of baked dishes among which the most famous are  Tave Dheu typical of Tirana which is made of fresh cheese, veal and tomato all baked in a ceramic casserole; and Tavë Kosi, typical of Elbasani which is made of baked lamb in a tasty yoghurt sauce.

In southern and south-eastern regions of Albania you can find a wide variety of vegetable pies called Byrek or Lakror made of nettles, spinach and cheese, beans, cheese, yoghurt and eggs, tomato and onions; and a special meat pie called Mesnik which is usually served for the new year’s celebration and has a coin inside. It is believed that whoever gets the coin, is going to the luckiest of the family for the year. Another typical dish of the southern Albanian cuisine is a chicken grit called Përshesh me Pulë. Other culinary specialties like Japrak  or Dollma which are made of meat rice wrapped in grape or cabbage leaves , Pilaf which is made of broth rice, Qofte (meatballs), Imam Bajalldi (stuffed eggplants) etc., can be found almost everywhere in Albania.

But the main courses are not the only thing that Albanian cuisine can offer. After every meal there comes the dessert and there are many delicious syrup desserts to try, such as Bakllava, Kadaif, Shëndetli, Sheqerpare, as well as other milk desserts like Sytlaç (milk rice), Qumështor (milk pie) and the wonderful Gliko which comes in so many varieties as it is made of cherries, plums, apricots, wall nuts, water melon, figs, oranges, grapes, grapefruit and eggplants.

The only thing that you can do now is just to take the chance and try them! So please be sure to visit our website www.hiddenland-albania.com for a special offers of the selected restaurants.

B Traditions