Albanian cuisine is comparable to that of other Balkan nations, with a few noticeable exceptions.
The food of the nation is Mediterranean, with influences from Italian, Greek, and Turkish cuisines. The cuisines make extensive use of what is in season and accessible, and practically every Albanian recipe includes some kind of vegetable.
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My Top 11 Albanian Food Favorites
I’ll start this piece the way most Albanians do: with coffee.
Albania has a tremendous coffee culture that is nearly unrivaled in my experience. Albanians, I believe, take their coffee as seriously as Turkish people do their tea. At various hours of the day, you may find Albanians sitting in cafés, drinking coffee and conversing.
And you can’t simply chug a cup and go on. You sit, you talk, and you do not rush. This is an important aspect of Albanian culture and should be respected. Furthermore, at around.50 USD a cup, it’s no surprise that drinking a cup is a popular method for Albanians to pass the time.
During my stay in Albania, one of my favorite discoveries was pispili Albanian cornbread with leeks.
I discovered this at a street food vendor and wanted to try it. Very wonderful and pretty full. Later that night, I wasn’t in the mood for supper. I really prefer it to my mom’s cornbread—the leeks truly enhance this meal. The greatest thing is that it only cost me about.40 USD.
I know it seems strange to suggest a salad, but believe me when I say that this one is wonderful.
This simple tomato, cucumber, and cheese salad is Albania’s most popular summer salad. It is sometimes served with olives, maize, or onions, but it is always served with cucumber, tomato, and cheese.
Salads may be dressed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and perhaps a splash of lemon or vinegar, but I love mine with just olive oil. When the ingredients are this fresh, nothing more is required.
I didn’t like cucumber before discovering this salad, but eating some form of it all summer has won me over.
Kakavall(or kashkavall) may be found, in one manner or another, all across the Balkans. It rightfully ranks among the most popular Albanian dishes.
The phrase is often used to describe yellow cheese in general, but in this case, it refers to pan-fried cheese. Probably not the healthiest choice on the menu, but certainly one of the most tasty.
The cheese is salty, and when fried, it becomes melty and wonderful, and it goes well with beer!
You can’t discuss Albanian cuisine without discussing byrek (burek or brek).
Byrek is a baked filled pastry that may be filled with any number of fillings and is popular across the Balkans. The dough is phyllo dough, which is thin and flaky.
Byrek is often packed with spinach and cheese or minced meat in Albania. This fairly common meal is often accompanied by ayran, a salty yogurt drink.
Byrek is great, but I think it’s a little too fatty for a morning dish. Still, it was the most common breakfast I witnessed folks eating.
Pae koke is a must-try if you want to sample a particularly local cuisine that is also exclusively for daring diners.
Pae koke, seen at the bottom of the top photo, is a soup cooked from the flesh of a lamb or cow’s head. It’s basically Albanian head meat soup, and it’s wonderful.
When I tried it with a buddy one morning, he not only completed his own bowl by scraping off the remnants with his bread, but he also did the same with mine.
The soup tastes like a stew your granny would cook. The soup is rich and substantial, and the fatty beef portions are deliciously soft.
These bowls were served with chili flakes and garlic oil, which I thought to be unexpected but excellent additions.
Don’t be put off by the description; this meal is very fantastic, so much so that I had it three more times throughout my stay in the nation.
I saw the soup for as much as $3 USD in tourist locations, but I sampled it for $1 in local eateries.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve eaten qofte, one of my favorite local foods. Often, these seasoned grilled meatballs are served with raw onion and bread.
Qofte may be prepared from lamb, pig, beef, or a mix of the three, depending on where you sample them. Meatballs in Albania are often a combination of beef and lamb. They reminded me of the mici I had when in Romania trying Romanian cuisine.
I enjoyed ordering it with onion and fresh cheese and placing it between two slices of bread to form a sandwich. When there’s a store in the area providing qofte, the fragrance of grilled meat will find you before you discover it!
Speaking about bread, I like Albanian bread, also known as simite.
I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned bread in a food post—which should tell you how delicious this is. Bread is often simply bread, but simite is unique.
This bread is very fluffy on the interior while having a chewy outside crust. It is ideal for dipping or stuffing into sandwiches.
We determined the test of a good restaurant was whether the simite arrived to the table hot. When served hot, the bread improves enormously.
You’ll need something to dip your simite in, and one of my favorites is salc kosi.
This strained yogurt dip goes well with grilled kfte and warm bread.
Albanian mixed grill: Throughout the nation, a massive platter of mixed grilled meat, most usually seen at a zgara, or grill house, is one of the most popular Albanian foods.
For this lunch, you normally order a salad, some grilled veggies, and a variety of dips and spreads, and everyone dives in family style.
This was one of my favorite ways to dine throughout my trip since it enabled me to sample a variety of Albanian dishes.
Lastly, at the conclusion of practically every dinner, you are usually handed a little glass of raki (often without being requested).
Raki is extremely similar, if not identical, to rakia, which is prevalent across the Balkans.
Raki(a) is a fruit brandy drink with a 40% alcohol concentration, while handmade raki frequently has a greater alcohol percentage, sometimes much more.
The drink is similarly comparable to the plenka we had on our Budapest walking food tour. It is composed of fruits like as plums or grapes and is normally transparent unless has been aged in oak barrels.
Although it burns like hell, it’s a common way to conclude an Albanian dinner, and after a few times, you nearly grow accustomed to it!