In the West, over the Adriatic, there is a land very close to Italy (by ferry you can get there in no time) called Albania, influenced by many different kind of cuisine coming from the surrounding countries. In fact, besides Italy, in the South there is Greece. Turkey is not really close but the Ottoman Empire had spread far and away and has obviously left its specialties here to be absorbed and taken into the traditional Albanian dishes.
It is a fact, as traditions can be switched by proximity or war and militar occupation. So in Albanian dishes there is also the blue print of other culinary traditions.
For example, for sweets, Albanian chefs use honey as much as Turkish an Greek chefs do. Even the name sometimes does not change, as for BAKLAVA (dessert made of thin pastry soaked in honey and stuffed with dried fruit) or LOUKUM which is a much appreciated sweet and often sold on the street, especially in Vlora; these are pieces of confits pumpkin, then passed in powdered sugar.
The traditional Greek drink, ouzo, is also found in Albania with almost the same name, that is UZO; it is an alcoholic beverage, more exactly a distillate which has the taste of anise.
But the typical Albanian drink is RAKI, a white absolutely smooth brandy, usually made of grape but also of other fruits.
The lamb or kid is very used and we find it in many dishes. It is said that the best lambs are those reared in the Vlora region. The lamb of KARABURUN is considered a delicacy by the chefs, both for their taste and the tenderness of the meat. Karaburun is a peninsula near Vlora; it is a pristine natural park that reaches 800 meters above sea level.
Even some recipes for lamb are almost similar to those of neighboring countries.
The Albanian lamb’s recipe or TAVE KOSI isees the anima cut it into pieces, after having boned, and baked first in broth or pan. Then the cooking is finished in the oven, adding beaten eggs and yoghurt. It’s almost the same procedure that is done in the south of Italy, where, however, they do not use yoghurt.
Lamb’s innards are cooked almost the same way both in Italy and Albania. There are two specialties that go back to very ancient traditions, the KUKUREC and MACAKORDA. If you want to taste these dishes would be better, however, to also appreciate the quality and genuineness, travel to the less touristy areas where shepherds families know how to prepare these delicacies that not everyone knows.
As for the cheeses, the production is quite massive, given that sheep farming is a great resource for all Albanians. The bardhe is a very similar to feta cheese. In many dishes, such as for example in byrek, generally there is the meat, but the latter is often replaced by cheese.
Yoghurt is an integral part of many recipes, both hot and cold; we find it in the preparation of Tarator which is a cold soup made from cucumbers. There is even a beverage, the DHALLE, on the basis of yoghurt to which is very cold water added.
Even the goat is used much like lamb. There is a ham, PASTERMA, which is precisely made from the goat; it got smoked and then dried. The result is an excellent product with a very pronounced taste.
Even if the meat has a predominant place in the Albanian cuisine (not just lamb and goat but also beef, pork and chicken),there is also a lot of fish, especially on the coast where the sea gives its fabulous products. But do not forget that in Albania there are even rivers that are mostly rich in trout, excellent in every way.
All the fruit and vegetables of the Mediterranean, such as peppers, zucchini, cucumbers and tomatoes are part of almost every menu, as well as indeed also legumes. The SHTRIDELAT precisely contains beans and chickpeas.
The cereals, rice and corn are used in many dishes, both sweet and savory. The Buke Miser is a bread made with cornmeal. The KABUNI instead is a sweet made of rice, raisins and pine nuts. We find also in the rice rolls of vine leaves.
Photo CC-BY-SA Violetamyftari
The Albanian seasoning is mainly olive oil, but also butter, which is also produced in large amounts by shepherds and part of many dishes.
The Albanian lunch is usually composed of a single plate, which includes fish or meat or cheese, pasta or rice and vegetables, legumes and vegetables. There are still a number of appetizers, here called MEZE. The origin of the name is on the Turkish side, partly Greek. Also the variety of these starters is found both in Turkey and in Greece. There are olives, various fresh or seasoned cheeses, meatballs (QOFTE), peppers and fried eggplant, sausage and various sauces. Items can vary from one area to another, but it is still the same for the various regional meze.
In short, the Albanian cuisine is absolutely genuine and tasty, and, for most of his dishes, corresponding to what is known as the Mediterranean diet, which has long been recommended to all. Although we find in many Albanian cuisine dishes almost equal to those of other nations, the products are unique, as unique is the land from which they come.
Are you attracted to traditional Albanian food? Well, just book a ferry and go to this beautiful land!