Albanian cuisine is very different from what you might find in Northern Europe and the U.S. My first introduction to Albanian food was cheese that had been soaked over the winter months in a cask of wine! Whatever your taste profile, our Albanian food menu has something for you.
All hail the king and undisputed national dish. Byrek is to Albanians as what the baguette is to the French. My favorite is corn byrek but the recipe combinations are endless. A traditional Albanian chef would probably start with a bread base and for filling add olive oil, onion, chuck roast, and tomatoes. Other recipes call for either cottage cheese or feta cheese, or, alternatively spinach and ricotta.
Here's a little something for those of you with a sweet tooth. Baklava is the kind of traditional food that many people lay claim to inventing. Ancient Greece, Turkey, as well as Persia all have documented evidence of baklava consumption. What isn't disputed is that Albanians have refined the recipe. My favorite version of this dessert is known as Baklava me Mjaltë- or honey baklava. It's a combination of layered filo pastry with walnuts, cinnamon, and honey. Albanian desserts are few and far between, so savor this one.
Qofte is another traditional dish that transcends Albania. Sometimes called kofta, it can be found all the way from the Balkans to India. Albanian qofte is essentially fried meatballs made of lamb, herbs and seasoned with paprika and other spices.
Zgara is grilled meat BBQ style. There are many meat dishes in Albania and this is perhaps the most famous. The variations are endless. You can have it with tomato sauce, grilled vegetables, or even cold soup.
Grilled vegetables Albanian style. This is more a side dish than a main course. You'll find onions, zucchini, yellow squash, potatoes, tomatoes, and parsley seasoning, as well as a whole host of other grilled vegetables depending on the season. Sidenote: there is also a version of this dish that uses pickled vegetables.
Fergese, or Albanian stew, is usually served cold. I've seen a few variations on the dish but the accepted wisdom seems to be that it's made with tomato sauce, cottage cheese, green peppers, and garlic. A variation is Fergese me melçi which is made with liver.
This is one of my favorite Albanian dishes. Petulla is fried dough and is traditionally eaten as a snack. It is often served on the street much the same way a pretzel may be served in New York or, moo ping(grilled pork) is served in Thailand. You can enjoy this Albanian cooking in either a sweet or savory style.
Another traditional Albanian dish is baked fish with garlic. If you visit the Albanian riviera in Southern Albania, you will find this is a typical dish on the menu. Make sure you choose a place that has a reputation for serving fresh seafood, and then why not wash it down with some traditional Albanian wine?
Albanians love their stuffed peppers. Be careful though. If you want to take on this traditional dish in your own kitchen, it can make casseroles go bad if you overcook the peppers. A common accompaniment is sour cream or salce kosi. This is Albanian cuisine at its finest.
Tavë Kosi is baked lamb with rice balls. This is a traditional Albanian food that is famous enough to have its own recipe on the BBC. Similar to the Greek moussaka, this is a dish that uses lamb shoulder, greek style yogurt, and olive oil.
No meal in Albania would be complete without a glass of raki. At 40%, this isn't a drink to be taken lightly(that being said you'll see many old people having it with their morning coffee). I prefer mine in a cocktail known as the French 75 where it is mixed with lemon juice and simple syrup.
For those of you who have been to Greece or Italy, Albania will be familiar. The best way to get the full culinary experience is to visit a local farm and have a guide show you around. Some of these farms have rebranded themselves as agrotourism sites, and they do not disappoint. It is a unique opportunity to see where traditional Albanian food is grown and to eat it while it's still fresh. The most famous of these is Mrizi i Zanave, set in the village of Fishte. Even more amazing is that this farm is built on the site of a former political prison (it is hard to think of a better metaphor for Albania's recovery and subsequent growth).
Did any of that delicious food take your fancy? I feel like Albanian cuisine has a little something for the carnivore and vegetarian alike. Grilled meat, fried dough, stuffed peppers. There are traditional dishes and trendy reimaginings of classic Albanian cuisine in downtown Tirana.
Food in Albania has a long and storied past. It is interwoven with Albanian culture. Here at Ling, we aim to provide content that takes into account all aspects of Albanian life. We have countless lessons from beginner to advanced, on everything from introducing yourself to going to the doctor.
Why don't you check out our blog on how to introduce yourself in Albanian, so you can greet your waiter properly, and then after that, I'd suggest you sign up for one of our Albanian courses and take your knowledge to the next level.