The traditional Albanian cuisine is a reflection of the local culture, way of living and the amazing hospitality, with which, Albanians have identified themselves through centuries.
Being in between eastern and western cultures, it is natural to be influenced and then incorporate all these culinary traditions in one identifiable Albanian culinary culture.
The favourable climate allows the cultivation of nearly all kinds of agricultural products. The country boast itself of a rich variety of vegetables and fruits to be consumed raw or cooked at one’s delight.
It is interesting to see that certain dishes are found among different Balkan countries. So, the cooking of stew (fërgesë), casseroles (tava), pickles, stuffed grape leaves (japrak), beefsteak, etc are a testimony of local cultures influencing one another in time.
Another interesting thing of the Albanian cuisine is that most local dishes use ingredients which keep their natural features, colour, and aroma while cooked.
Even-though foreign cultures have left their mark on the Albanians culinary traditions, still locals have preserved their ancient practices of cooking which today we are uncovering again.
Albanian cuisine in Northern Albania
The cold climate of Northern Albania and the fact that refrigerators where still a thing of the future, have pushed the locals to find innovative ways to store the food during the winter period.
Each family has made a tradition of storing good such as: pastërma (dried meat), mash ( trahana ), pasta ( jufka ), etc.
They are prepared during the summer season and then dried up before the winter season begins. All the dried foods we mentioned above, are homemade, so you can find them in every house in the north.
Some of the most used vegetables are: beans, potatoes and cabbage which make some of the most common ingredients of every typical dish in Northern Albania.
We should not forget Onion and garlic which are as well very present. They are tied in strings and dried, a tradition of the northern regions, so that they are available throughout the year.
Shkodër cuisine takes a special place with popular dishes such as: “Çorba Shkodrane”.
With the region being rich in water resources, fishing is a tradition that dates back to the Illyrian Period.
What makes the region stand out is not only its abundance in fish but also the traditional way they are cooked. The most well-known are crap and fish stew (krapi me lëng), dried sardines etc, extremely delicious.
Talking about the region, one cannot help but mention the district of Lezha and the surrounding lagoons rich in sea-fowl and wild animals, like: duck, goose, woodcock, pheasant, wild hare, etc.
The climate of Northern Albania is as well suited for growing the plum of Dibra, apples, cherry, nuts, walnuts etc. A special fruit of this region is the pomegranate of Shkodra, big sweet and juicy.
Albanian cuisine in Southern Albania
This area of the country is well known for the breeding of livestock. The variety of livestock are a great source of dairy products which you find in abundance as you visit or hike the hinterland.
The characteristic dairy farms, especially in Gjirokaster and Delvine, are known for the production of various kinds of cheese which have a great taste. Cheese is a very important menu item in the everyday dishes of Southern Albania.
Climate through the coastal areas favours the cultivation of olives and citrus trees.
In every home as well as the restaurants of the region, olives are served as appetizers whether alone as a salad or accompanied by other vegetables.
Characteristic for this region is the “raki”, an alcoholic drink, made from different grape varieties.
In the village of Labove in Gjirokastra, excavations have accidentally brought to surface two stones shaped like washtubs used in earlier times for the crushing of grapes.
The liquid would pass through a narrow canal carved in stone, and would undergo further processing to become wine or raki.
These discovered objects are evidence of the tradition of viticulture in antiquity, when wine is said to have been as water.
In Pogradec people produce raki and wine in their houses, and almost all make wine according to recipes handed down from one generation to the other. Wine is kept in barrels in the basement.
In the southwestern part of the country, lies the Albanian Riviera, where the clean mountain air blends with the warmth of the sea, making it the choice among the tourist destinations in Albania.
It is preferred not only for the wonderful climate but also for the delicious food.
The road to the Riviera is full of restaurants that prepare fresh fish or seafood dishes.
The taste of shrimp, cuttlefish, squid, and mussels is memorable.
The Pass of Llogara, being the only land passage to the Riviera, is an area where the visitors stop by to rest, but also can try the dishes of the region, such as the roasted meat on a spit (mish i pjekur ne hell), lamb intestines, honey with walnuts (pelte me mjalte e arra), etc.
Meat in this region is the most tasteful in the country.
Albanian cuisine in Central Albania
The diversity of animal species grown biologically in the region, is augmented by the diversity of domestic birds ( turkey ) and sea-fowl (goose, duck and duckling).
The area encircling the forest of Divjaka, which lies on the Adriatic shore, is live with wild birds and animals like: duck, wild goose and wild boar.
Fishing is a significant activity given that a number of fish species migrate from the sea, such as: sole, bass, flat fish, eel and mullet.
Traps are set up in the canals linking the lagoon with the sea to catch them.
The Albanian or foreign visitors, who come to relax amidst century old pine trees ought not to miss the variety of fresh fish dishes offered by the local restaurants.
The suitable land and climate promote the growing of all kinds of fruits and vegetables used in the whole country. Among particular fruits of the region are berries like cornel, etc
Traditional dishes include: dried de-stoned plum casserole ( tavë me pistil ), Elbasani yogurt dish ( tavë kosi Elbasani ), Tirana stew ( fërgesë Tiranse ), etc.
A special dessert is ballokume, characteristic crumpet of the town of Elbasan, prepared by local homemakers. and it is mainly cooked for the celebration of Summer Day (on March 14), but also family feasts.
The region is known for making raki, wine (based on the variety of the grapes that are harvested), fruit juice, preserves etc.
Berat has the largest plantations of figs in the Balkans. Here the locals have a tradition in the preparation of fig preserve and fig jam.
The area of Myzeqe is known for raising turkey and a paricular dish called turkey with mash (gjel deti me pershesh).
This dish is prepared in all the regions of the country, but it is more delicious in this area. Local restaurants serve it too.