Albania is the country that amazes people with its trees and mountains, lively seaside cities, UNESCO sites, Ottoman period architecture, ancient ruins, and more. But the country has plenty to offer if gastronomy is one of the main reasons you travel. We all love to dine on delicious food, and if it’s traditional it is all the better. Here we are looking at some of the most popular traditional foods in Albania where dishes are mostly composed of meat and vegetables, though you will certainly also find desserts in case you have a sweet tooth.
1. Byrek (a layered pie)
Albania’s most popular food is Byrek, a salty pie available in different sizes and types throughout the country. You must try one with meat, tomatoes, feta cheese cabbage, and spinach filling enveloped in a filo pastry. Other similar dishes include Kungullur, which is made with filo pastry, pumpkin, butter, salt or sugar, and Kakllaasarem, a layered pita (empty inside) with garlic and yogurt covering. There are many restaurants in Tirana, the capital of Albania, where you will be able to taste Byrek. A popular one is Oda and you must drop in to taste their delectable creations.
2. Tavë kosi (a quiche-like dish)
Tavë Kosi (“soured milk casserole”) is made of rice and lamb baked with eggs and yogurt. Seems to be the best food to recover all the protein and carbs, in case you have plans to workout in Albania. Well, sightseeing can also be quite physically demanding. Tavë Kosi is the typical fare of Elbasan city, near Tirana.
If you are visiting Albania during the summer, be sure to try Tarator, which is a cold soup with cucumber, walnut, fennel, garlic, olive oil, spices, and vinegar. Some love to have their Tarator with fried squids. If it is colder times, Sataras, a stew made with onions, tomatoes, and paprika is preferred. Non-vegetarian options include Chumlek, made with meat, onions, and Guvech which is prepared with meat and potatoes.
4. Fërgesë (fried cheese or curd with peppers and tomatoes)
Fërgesë is mostly available in Tirana and areas close to the capital city. Perfect to have with homemade bread, the dish is made by cooking tomatoes, peppers, and cottage cheese together.
5. Fried kaçkavall (fried cheese)
Kaçkavall is a yellow salty cheese, the most popular one in Albania after Djathë i bardhë (white cheese). Produced from cow’s or sheep’s milk, Kaçkavall is served free of cost in many traditional restaurants before the main dishes arrive. There are various types such as baked Kaçkavall and Kaçkavall salad, but the tastiest, for obvious reasons, is fried Kaçkavall.
6. Qoftë (grilled meatballs)
Qoftë, as you might have guessed, is like kofta found in the Middle East. They are delicious meatballs. In Albania, they come grilled, fried or baked, and in various different shapes. Seasoned with mint and spices, Qoftë is usually served with raw onion and salad. In some places, it is accompanied by yogurt with fennel and cucumber. In Korça, a popular town in Albania, you can also find a type of meatball called Kernaçka. In Albania, there are many shops called Qofteri that offer Qoftë and beer.
7. Perime në zgarë (grilled vegetables)
You will surely fall in love with this refreshing, tasty dish of Albania made from farm fresh vegetables. The locals are fond of grilling vegetables, so you will probably get a plate full of different colors along with the main dishes. Perime në Zgarë is usually served with balsamic vinegar. The central part of Albania has the soil and the climate perfect for growing almost all kinds of vegetables and fruits. Zucchini, eggplants, tomatoes, peppers, and more; name your favorite and it will be found there.
While in Albania, you shouldn’t miss the experience of having fresh seafood while enjoying its panoramic views from a restaurant’s terrace. Fish is not abundant in the capital and other inland areas. You will find more seafood restaurants along the coast, in towns such as Vlora and Saranda. Check out some of the best beaches along the Riviera, and then taste different types of fish such as Flounder, Sole, Gray Mullet, and Perch from the Adriatic sea caught daily by local fishermen. Albania also has rivers and lakes from where good freshwater fish is available, such as Carp from the Skadar lake. In Saranda, you can sunbath next to moored fishing boats and try fresh fish and other seafood such as prawns and squids. Fish is usually grilled or baked whole with peppers, tomatoes, herbs, and olive oil.
9. For your sweet tooth
In case a dessert is a must-have for you with your meals, you will be in the right place. First of all, let us start with fruits. They are available all the time in Albania. Try them fresh or as jams or compotes. You will also find crystallized fruit called Oshaf. The Albanian Baklava is a famous cake made with nuts. Another popular cake is Trileçe. The word means “cake made with three kinds of milk”, and Trileçe is made with milk, concentrated milk, and cream. Other popular items include Tollumba, a fried dough dipped in a rich sugary syrup, a fermented malt drink called Boza, rice (Sultash) or wheat (Ashure) puddings, and halva, made with flour or semolina and of course lots of sugar. You will find traditional Albanian desserts throughout the country in most restaurants.
10. Fileto pule me panna dhe kerpudha (grilled chicken)
This is for those who looked at the list above and were disappointed not seeing any dish made with chicken. It is true that meat and veal are the favorites of Albanians. But there are good chicken dishes to try too. Like Fileto pule me panna dhe kerpudha, which translates to grilled chicken breast with a cream sauce and fresh mushrooms.
There's surely more
Of course, there is more to try in the Land of the Eagles. There is Qifqi (rice balls), Pispili (cornbread and vegetables), Kebabs, and more. You might find Paçe, in the menu, made by boiling pig, cow, or sheep heads. The meat that comes off it is used to make a stew with garlic, onion, and spices. Then there is the polenta based Harapash, made with lamb intestines, cheese, butter, and corn flour. And not to mention frog’s legs! Yes, you read that right. They are a staple of Gjirokaster in southern Albania. Albanians also have wine and beer with their food. Both red and white wines are available in the country. But their national drink is Rakia, a grape brandy with as much as 55% alcohol. So there you have it. Albanian traditional food is calling out to you. Have you made your travel plans already?
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