One of the best things about travelling and experiencing the world is trying the foods and flavours that other countries are known for. Perhaps due to not being on the regular European tourist trail, the cuisine in Albania seems to have flown under the radar. However, don’t let this lack of knowledge deter you from trying all that Albanian cuisine has to offer!
The combination of rich fertile land, proximity to the ocean and blurred cultural lines with neighbouring countries, has resulted in a diverse modern cuisine. In culinary terms, there are three distinct regions in Albania; north, central and south. As Northern Albania’s largest city, the food found on the tables of those in Shkodra fall under the ‘North Albanian’ cuisine umbrella.
Traditional food in northern Albania has origins in the mountains, coastal and rural areas, which has resulted in a varied type of cuisine where lots of different fruits and root vegetables are used. Staples in a Northern Albanian diet include potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbage, beans, garlic and nuts. The most popular ingredient is maize and a popular regional dish is meat and vegetable casseroles. However, in Shkodra, unlike the rest of Northern Albania, there is a lot of fish and seafood on plates.
You can forget the calories (they don’t count when you’re on holidays, right?!) while you’re here and make sure to try these local delicacies!
To be enjoyed as either a soup or dip, tarator is a mixture of strained yoghurt, cucumber, salt, olive oil, garlic, parsley, dill and mint; it’s similar to tzatziki in Greece.
You might see ‘Albanian-style Meze’ on many a restaurant menu. This meze is made up of typical Albanian appetizers, which can include boiled eggs, pickled vegetables, cured meats, cheese and cooked vegetable salads.
Kaçkavall is an Albanian cheese that’s usually served as a side or snack. You can eat it either raw or fried.
Shkoda is home to some of the best fish you’ll eat in the entire country. Caught fresh from Lake Shkoda, you’ll find that your fish can be prepared in many different ways, however, grilled is the most common.
A typical Balkan dish (it’s also known as cevapi in neighbouring countries), qebapa is skinless sausages made by grilling minced meat.
Fërgesë me Melçi
Similar to a casserole, Fërgesë me Melçi is made with capsicum, tomato, egg, cheese curd and liver, served warm with bread.
Albanians love their meat, so it makes sense that the best way to eat meat, is a mixed grill of meats.
Speça me Gjize
Equally colourful and tasty, speça me gjize is capsicum stuffed with cottage cheese, rice and spices.
Qifqi is a specialty of Gjirokastra and are rice balls flavoured with herbs and bound together with eggs.
Perime Në Zgarë
Just as popular as grilled fish and meat are grilled vegetables, or perime në zgarë. The most common vegetables you’ll see grilled are eggplant, zucchini, onions, capsicum and tomatoes.
Similar to rice pudding, kabuni is a sweet dish made of butter-fried rice, raisins, salt and mutton broth, topped with sugar, cinnamon and ground cloves.
The Albanian version of the Spanish tres leches cake, Trileçe is prepared with milk, cream and concentrated milk.
Popular in the summer months, dallë is a mixture of spices, yoghurt and water.
While Albania is not known for its wine production, origins of wine-making in the country date back to 4000BC. There are many wineries dotted all over the countries mountainous regions.
Interested in learning more about how to experience Shkodra like a local? Check out our blog post here!