The national Albanian cuisine combines Byzantine and Arabic dishes, as well as a large number of local delicacies. The gastronomic preferences of the inhabitants of the country change depending on the region.
In the north, various casseroles, river fish and cornmeal dishes are popular. In the central part of Albania, they eat meat, pies with vegetable fillings and rice with milk.
Southerners are engaged in the cultivation of olives and citrus fruits, as well as the manufacture of cheeses. Cabbage rolls and roast beef are common meat dishes here.
General characteristics of the national Albanian cuisine
The specificity of Albanian gastronomy is due to its geographical location and climate. Historically, these territories were located between Europe and the Ottoman Empire.
The locals adopted their cultural and culinary habits, so Turkish and Italian dishes have become entrenched in the Albanian national cuisine.
Favorable climatic conditions have been created here for growing vegetables, which are part of most dishes. The presence of the sea plays an important role: the cuisine of the southern regions is characterized by an abundance of seafood.
Albanians use spices such as basil, rosemary, oregano, red and black peppers. Almost every meal includes fresh vegetables, which are bought every morning at the market.
Meat and dairy products are an integral part of the local cuisine, and spirits such as raki are a complement.
Albanians eat large quantities of white wheat or corn bread. Under Turkish influence, oriental sweets and rice have become popular here. Lunch in Albania is the main meal for which all family members gather, therefore large dishes are used to prepare food – boilers and vats.
Moving around the country, you can notice the differences in the dishes that are prepared in the north, south or central part of Albania. Regions create their own gastronomic traditions depending on the landscape and climatic characteristics.
Corn is grown here, from which flour is made, so bread made from this cereal is popular in the northern regions. Due to the cold weather, local families are preparing for the winter. Popular ones include basturma, pasta and dough porridge.
Most dishes are prepared with the addition of onions and garlic; beans, potatoes, carrots and cabbage are used from vegetables.
A special place in the cuisine of the Albanian north is occupied by the cuisine of the city of Shkodra. There are many rivers and lakes in its vicinity, so the main product on the table is fish. Carp and eel are caught, after which they are fried over an open fire, baked or soups are made.
Game is hunted near Lezha, so you can find pheasant, mallard and rabbit dishes in nearby restaurants.
In the north, popular eggplants stuffed with eggs and parsley, rice in broth, the Albanian version of petula pancakes, and meat or vegetable casseroles.
Since the climate allows harvesting from fruit and berry trees, crayfish is made in the region – an alcoholic drink made from plums, which complements any feast here.
Stuffed eggplant is a popular dish in Albania.
In the central part of Albania, the fauna is widely represented, which is associated with the abundance of meat dishes: liver in cottage cheese, meat in yogurt, etc. Popular pies filled with nettle, spinach, cabbage, broccoli. The city of Elbasan, located here, is famous for the “Summer Day” holiday and the balokume dessert, which is prepared for this celebration.
The region is home to the largest fig plantations in the Balkans, olives and crayfish from grapes.
Southerners are engaged in breeding livestock, so dairy products are common here. In summer, the Albanians are in demand for the tarator drink; it is made from kefir, cucumbers, walnuts and onions. Numerous farms produce cheeses and cottage cheese. Sheep milk produces thick kefir, which can be cut with a knife.
The south of the country is famous for its winemaking. The inhabitants of Pogradec pass on the secret technology of making wines with the aroma of wild roses from generation to generation. In Skrapar they make the grape drink Rehani, and in Permet they make jam from walnuts.
The main southern attraction, attracting a large number of tourists, is the Albanian Riviera. The seaside resort attracts not only with the opportunity to have a good rest, but also to taste fresh seafood and various meat dishes. In restaurants, you should definitely order lamb on a spit, cutlets with rice, honey sweets.
Traditions in the use of various products have developed in Albania due to the climate and geographical location. Fertile soil contributes to an abundance of vegetables and fruit and berry crops, the sea and lakes provide fish, farms produce a large amount of meat and dairy products.
Of plant origin
Local cuisine is similar to any Mediterranean cuisine, which means that it contains a lot of vegetables. Albanians use cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, legumes, and peppers. Olives, citrus fruits, figs and grapes are grown in the country.
Meat and fish
Lamb meat has become widespread in national cuisine. Beef, chicken and rabbits are also cooked. Trout and carp are popular fish delicacies, and seafood is served on the coast.
National dishes of Albanian cuisine.
The locals consume yoghurts in large quantities, they make sauces and use them in the preparation of many delicacies (for example, they bake meat with it, make tave-kosi and sweets). In Albania, a variety of cheeses are produced, the most popular are aged pickled, sheep and local varieties of feta cheese.
The range of spices that are added to traditional dishes is small. Housewives use black pepper, parsley, dill, oregano, cinnamon, mint, bay leaves, and cloves.
Albanian cuisine is based on a combination of meat and vegetables. These products play an important role in local gastronomy.
The main dishes are various types of stews, meatballs, kefte and broths. Stuffed peppers have become very popular in the country.
In addition to meat delicacies, they also eat spinach and cheese pies.
One of the main roles in traditional cuisine is played by rice dishes. It is fried in olive oil and then stewed with spices and meat broth. Albanians use the Basmati variety because it does not become starchy and soggy.
Salads and snacks
Local salads are prepared with fresh vegetables. Most often these are tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and bell peppers dressed with oil, lemon juice and vinegar.
Small snacks served with dinner are called meze. They are an assortment of prosciutto, salami, pickled cheeses and olives. Eggplant appetizers are often featured on the traditional table.
Meze is a popular small variety of snacks.
The invitation to the beginning of the meal is translated from the Albanian language as “let’s go eat bread”. This fact shows what an important place flour products occupy in the country’s cuisine.
It is impossible to imagine a traditional Albanian table without white or corn bread. Pies with various fillings – spinach, cheese, onions, minced meat – are also popular here. This delicacy is called lacrere.
The assortment of local sweets has been shaped by oriental influences. In Albania, you can taste a wide variety of baklava and Turkish delight.
Other popular desserts:
- Petulla donuts. Dough made from buckwheat or wheat flour, deep-fried and sprinkled with powdered sugar.
- Thin crepe pancakes. Any fillings are wrapped in them – from jams to meat.
- Shark ice cream.
- Kabuni pudding. Prepared with fried rice and raisins, add cinnamon and cloves, serve chilled.
- Oshaf. Pies made from rice. They are eaten with honey.
Among the non-alcoholic drinks, Turkish coffee, bose corn drink and grape juice rehani are popular among the locals.
Thanks to the climate in the country, good grapes are harvested, so the production of white and red wines is widespread. Raki is a traditional strong alcoholic drink. In Albania, anise liqueur “Ouzo” and herbal tincture “Fernet” are popular.
Things to try in Albania
There are many national dishes, with their specificity they have something in common with the dishes of Turkish and Balkan cuisines. Borrowed goodies are complemented by local trends.
The delicacy is prepared in pots and served in them or in ceramic dishes. The dish is a casserole of eggs and yogurt, seasoned with garlic and oregano. Beneath it is lamb with spicy rice. The meat is tender and soft.
Tave-kosi delicacy with lamb and rice.
Schumlek is made from beef and onions. First they are fried and then left to simmer for 2 hours. The dish turns out to be simple but tasty. Young potatoes or vegetables are suitable as a side dish. In some restaurants you can try roe deer or venison scumlek.
Local fish soup is prepared from sea bass or sea bass. Carrots, celery, zucchini, herbs and leeks are added to the soup. Thanks to this set of vegetables, the taste is sweetish. Albanians eat pawn soup with corn or wheat white bread.
This national cake is ordered for coffee. It is a honey-gingerbread biscuit. Sometimes candied fruits and nuts are added to the dough. In restaurants, the dessert is often decorated with whipped cream, and in addition to it, they bring homemade jam made from local fruits and berries: blackberries, mulberries or white cherries.
Shandetli is a honey and gingerbread cake.
Another traditional sweet is spicy rice pudding. The groats are fried, then boiled with raisins, and then sugar, cloves and cinnamon are added. Kabuni is served cold, sprinkled with sweet crumbs on top.
Bureks are considered street food and are sold at any eatery. These are fried pies stuffed with minced meat, baked vegetables or homemade cheese. In Albania, it is customary to wash down bureks with cool ayran.
The dish is used as a side dish for meat or as a separate vegetarian food. Fergesa Tirana is prepared in ceramic pots, where fried tomatoes and peppers are first placed, and then poured with a creamy sauce made from homemade feta. Sprinkle with paprika to add piquancy.
The Albanian version of Turkish meatballs is a juicy chicken, veal or lamb sausage. In restaurants, kefte is served along with rice or vegetables. On the streets, you can try this dish in pita bread or pita with yogurt sauce.
The sandwich, popular among the indigenous people, is made from mutton offal and meat. Placed in a natural casing, they are hoarded on a skewer, then cut into small pieces and placed in white bread along with fresh vegetables, spices and fried onions. This appetizer tastes spicy and juicy, so there is no need to be afraid to try kokorech.
Kokorech is a rather spicy and spicy sandwich.
Special me jiz
In Albania, peppers are stuffed without meat, so special me jiz is considered a vegetarian dish. Spicy rice with homemade cottage cheese or brine cheese is used as a filling.
The peppers are baked and then stewed with butter and chili sauce. Locals eat this delicacy by dipping slices of bread into it.
Interesting Albanian recipes for home cooking
Many dishes of the national Albanian cuisine have simple recipes. They can be prepared at home in a standard kitchen.
Levrek fish soup is found in almost every restaurant in the coastal regions of Albania. The main ingredient is sea bass or sea bass, which is complemented by vegetables. The dish is considered to be low in calories, so you can include it in the diet during the diet.
For self-preparation of Levrek you will need:
- fish – 2 pcs.;
- carrots – 3 pcs.;
- zucchini – 1 pc.;
- onions – 1 pc.;
- leeks – 2 pcs.;
- celery: root – 1 pc., stem – 2 pcs.;
- The vegetables are peeled and coarsely chopped, while the carrots are halved.
- The fish is cut and washed with water.
- Vegetables, except for half of the carrots, are placed in the pot along with the fish heads and skeletons. All are poured with water, brought to a boil, after which the soup is boiled for an hour.
- The broth is poured into another saucepan, fish fillets are added and cooked for 5-7 minutes.
- The second part of the carrots is chopped together with the leeks and added to the soup. Salt and cook until vegetables are cooked.
- Fresh herbs are placed in a saucepan before serving.
Levrek is a traditional Albanian fish soup.
The famous Albanian dessert attracts not only with its taste, but also with its benefits. Sultash is a rice pudding with cinnamon. The treat can be consumed with a cup of coffee or as a full breakfast, since it is hearty.
For cooking you will need:
- rice – 300 g;
- milk – 5 tbsp.;
- sugar – 250 g;
- lime zest – 1 tbsp l and;
- cinnamon – 1 stick;
- ground cinnamon to taste;
- vanilla sugar – 1 tsp;
- salt – 1/4 tsp
- The rice is washed until the water becomes clear.
- Then it is placed in a saucepan, brought to a boil and cooked for 20-25 minutes.
- Add cinnamon, zest and gradually pour in milk, stirring the rice. Then put vanilla sugar and cook for an hour until the mass reaches a creamy consistency. All this time, the rice is stirred.
- Add sugar and cook the pudding for another 7-8 minutes.
Sultash is served in bowls, decorated with ground cinnamon on top. Locals eat pudding with fresh berries and jams.
The national cuisine of Albania is multifaceted. She borrowed dishes from different countries, adding her own flavor. Everyone can find here delicacies to their liking.