Albanian cuisine bears a testimony to the hospitality of the inhabitants, who are renowned for their love they bestow upon guests by treating them to a sumptuous platter. Breakfast, lunch or dinner, the Albanians have always made a constant effort of blending nutrition with taste. In fact, theirs is a perfect example of a wholesome Mediterranean diet where a lot of importance is laid upon fruits and veggies. Read on to know the varieties of finger-licking foods Albania has to offer.
1. Qofte – A Typical Albanian Food
What is it: Also known as qofta, it is one of Albania’s favorite dishes, prepared by making a dough of minced meat and several vegetables, further seasoning it with an array of spices and aromatic herbs. You can have it with salads, yogurt or bread for lunch or dinner. Some shops in Albania known as Qofteri specialize in selling qofta as well as beer.
What does it taste like: Soft enough to melt in your mouth, with the addition of herbs making it aromatic. If you have it with a dip of yogurt, then it would be a perfect blend of salty and sour.
2. Tave Kosi – Albania’s National Dish
What is it: A unique dish prepared by baking lamb and rice, seasoned in a sauce made by whisking yogurt and eggs, with salads served as sides, giving it the appearance of a quiche. With the casserole technique used in cooking this platter, it is a typical dish of the Albanian city of Elbasan, served hot or even cold.
What does it taste like: Fluffy on top because of the egg coating and soft within as you feel the meat. The presence of yogurt would also give this mouthwatering dish a creamy texture.
3. Pita or Byrek- A Famous Savory Pie of Albania
What is it: It is a salty, triangular shaped pie, made from phyllo (thin, flaky, dough), and filled with a whole lot of ingredients, with spinach being the most popular. Other stuffings include cheese, cabbage, tomato, onions, milk and ground meat. In some places byrek or borek is the same as pita, whereas some countries consider only those with meat stuffings as byrek and everything else as pita).
How does it taste like: Crispy and flaky at the exterior, soft and creamy within, the taste varying according to the ingredients added.
4. Kabuni – Albania’s Traditional dessert
What is it: A traditional sweet dish, prepared by frying rice in butter, caramelized sugar, mutton broth (or water instead if you want to keep it a complete veggie dish), and seasoning it with ground cloves, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and almond once boiled. The end product is a baked rice pudding, mostly served cold.
What does it taste like: Grainy and crispy, while the addition of garnishes intensifies its sweet taste.
5. Tarator – A Tasty Soup
What is it: A cold soup, popularly eaten during summer, having yogurt, cucumber, parsley, garlic and olive oil as its main ingredients. Seafood like squids or even fried or grilled veggies team well as side dishes.
What does it taste like: The addition of cucumber, and several herbs, give the soup a cooling effect.
6. Fergese – Traditional Vegetarian Dish
What is it: Another national dish of Albania, also called Fërgese Tiranë, it has green and red bell pepper, skinned tomato, cottage cheese and onions as its main ingredients, seasoned with a whole lot of spices and finally baked to get a thick texture. Though the traditional version is purely vegetarian, lamb or beef is also used in the present times for its preparation.
What does it taste like: Eaten with bread or as a side dish, it is indeed a smooth, cheesy and creamy fusion.
7. Qifqi – Popular Albanian Finger Foods
What is it: A savory snack, considered to be Gjirokaster’s (Albanian town) national dish, prepared by kneading a mixture of rice, eggs, mint powder, black pepper, and salt, shaping them into small balls and frying in a special pan having a hollow at the bottom.
What does it taste like: The rice and eggs give it a chewy and smooth taste, while the mint powder leaves a soothing aftertaste. Teaming it with a spicy dip or even a beverage would give you utter delight.
8. Qebapa – A Popular Albanian Sausage Dish
What is it: A skinless sausage, made by grilling mincemeat. They are often served in pieces (5 or 10 per plate) along with cream, onions, and cheese or even on a flatbread as a stuffing.
What does it taste like: Rich and delicious with every bite of it compelling you to crave for more.
9. Baklava – A Famous Christmas Dessert of Albania
What is it: A sweet pastry, made by arranging layers of phyllo dough separated from each other with butter, held together by a sugary syrup or honey and filled with pistachios, hazelnut, and walnut.
What does it taste like: Sugary and crispy along with a nutty and creamy taste, mostly eaten on the occasions of Christmas and New Year as well as during religious festivals of other communities too.
10. Flia – A Traditional Wedding Food of Albania
What is it: Also called flija, it is a layered pancake having flour, butter, water, yogurt and oil as its main ingredients, served with honey and yogurt or even pickled vegetables, jam and cheese. The specialty of this dish lies in the method of its preparation since it is made using a sac (spherical metal lid). Eaten to celebrate births, weddings or other auspicious ceremonies, March 18 is celebrated as the Flia day in Albania where the nearest kith and kin are called upon to prepare and eat Flia together.
What does it taste like: It has a rich taste which could be extremely sweet or moderately salty, depending upon the accompaniments.
11. Dhalle – A Healthy Drink of Albania
What is it: A healthy drink, made by mixing yogurt with milk or water alongside other spices, mostly had in summer. Besides drinking it just like that, you can team it with a spicy fry or snack.
What does it taste like: Sour, salty and spicy, a refreshing beverage indeed to beat the heat.
12. Gjelle – Non-Veg Albanian Cuisine for Lunch
What is it: A nutritious food mostly eaten for lunch is a dish of slowly cooked meat along with a variety of vegetables. Salad made from tomato, green pepper, cucumber, onion, and olives or even a platter of fried potatoes come as a side dish.
What does it taste like: Assortment of meat and a whole lot of veggies would indeed make it utterly delicious.
Inspired by foods of Greek, Turkey and other neighboring countries, the dishes found here are a clear reflection of the rich taste of the inhabitants. Kosovo, Albania’s close cousin, has also been influenced by its cuisines, and some of the dishes like flija, qofte, and tave kosi are found there too. Apart from the list of just a few of the foods mentioned above, the country has a lot more to offer like gullash (meat stew), harapash (cornmeal and lamb dish), japrak (stuffed vegetable dish) and the list continue.