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Albanian Food: Top 10 Traditional Dishes to Try in Albania

Albanian Food: Top 10 Traditional Dishes to Try in Albania

Albanian food reflects old gastronomic traditions of various cultures mostly focusing on Mediterranean flavors. Countless authentic dishes make up the Albanian cuisine; each region offering their own spin; among many recipes, these are the most popular dishes to try in Albania. 

1. Byrek

Byrek is an iconic salty Albanian pie (albeit it draws inspiration from Ottoman/Turkish cuisine). Thinly rolled dough layers make up this authentic, crunchy pie. Various food filling lie in between these layers. The fillings vary depending on preference but the fillings’ choice will give the name to a specific Byrek recipe in a series of different pie varieties. The most cooked recipes are “Byrek me Gjizë” (“Byrek with Ricotta Cheese”), “Byrek me Domate dhe Qepë” (“Byrek with Tomatoes and Onions”),  “Byrek me Mish” (“Byrek with Meat”),  and “Byrek me Spinaq” (“Byrek with Spinach”).

All Byrek variations remain popular across Central Albania. Meanwhile, the southeastern Albanians prefer a much thinly rolled version they alternatively call “lakror”. When in Albania, order up a tasty triangular Byrek and savor a simple and fulfilling Balkan flavor.

Byrek is an iconic Albanian pie.

2. Bakllava

Bakllava is the most popular traditional dish among many Albanian desserts. It has a clear Turkish origin but throughout centuries it gained an original and local cooking craftsmanship. Dough layers with sweet nuts or pistachios, one on top of the other, make up this mouth-watering dessert. Then, these layers spend a long time in the oven. After the bake, cookers add a very sweet syrup called “shërbet, making the whole thing a smooth and juicy delight.

Cookers traditionally use a large aluminium or inox tray to prepare Bakllava. This preparation giver it a more authentic feel. The fully prepared dessert its then cut and served into diamond-shaped piece. This traditional dessert is a must-try during festivities and special occasions. 

Bakllava is a traditional dessert of Turkish origin.

3. Tavë Kosi (Sour Milk Casserole)

Locals have a special love for the dish they call Tavë Kosi. It’s essentially a unique and dense medley or goulash made with lamb or chicken meat, eggs, and, of course, yogurt or sour milk. Cookers then place all ingredients into a casserole and cook them altogether and well in the oven. They add seasonal herbs that make the dish somewhat exotic. As many other traditional Albanian dishes, it’s best when warm.

Tavë Kosi (Sour Mile Casserole) is a beloved dish among the locals.

4. Fërgesë

Fërgesë is one of the most authentic dishes in Albania. Its main ingredients include cottage cheese, peppers, tomatoes, onions, and spices. The main two variations of this recipe are “Fërgesa me piperka” (“Fërgesa with peppers”) and “Fërgesa me mëlçi” (“Fërgesa with liver”). The first is ideal as a side dish while the latter is perfect as a main course. Many call “Fërgesa me mëlçi” simply “Tavë Dheu”.

Fërgesa is the symbol of simplicity and a little meat mania of the Albania cuisine. This dish is typical in taverns and guesthouses around the country. Along with some warm home-made bread, you’ll feel at home and fill your belly.

Fërgesë is one of the most authentic dishes in Albania.

5. Jufka

If Italians have spaghettis, the Albanians have jufka Dibre. Jufka is pasta made by hand with only flour, eggs, milk, salt and pepper. This delisious dish dates from the XIV-th century. It seems to have originated from the Dibra region and quickly spread as an easy to prepare meal in the Albanian highlands and then all over the country. Cooked and served commonly with boiled and then ovened (roasted) uncut chicken, the dish is ideal during winter.

The pasta resembles the tagliatelle and gains flavors from the chicken and it’s broth, as well as additional herbs such as parsley, and thyme. The cautious cook in the oven results in a dish with gold colored al dente yet somewhat crispy jufka-s as well as a wholesome, succulent, and nutritional chicken meat. Jufka-s with chicken goes along superbly with a seasoned fresh salad. Another variation of this meal replaces chicken meat for generous chops of tender beef.  

Jufka is an authentic Albanian pasta often served with meat.

6. Petulla

This delicacy is a cheeky Albanian dish and a household-favorite. Petulla is the Albanian traditional version of pancakes or donuts. The simple recipe and few ingredients of mainly flour and eggs makes this dish highly popular and convenient. As other foods of this family, petulla offers a yummy taste when dipped into some honey or other sweet sidings.

Petulla is the Albanian version of pancake, a household favorite. 

7. Shëndetlie

Shëndetlie is one of the oldest recipes of the Albanian cuisine. This stunning dessert tastes like an authentic combination of cookie, cake, and ice-creamish textures. Main ingredients include flour, eggs, sugar, baking soda, honey, and butter. Cookers add the additional sticky liquid they call “shërbet” to the delicacy. Water, sugar, cloves, and vanilla can all make up”Shërbet”. As in the recipe for Bakllava, shërbet is thrown into the dessert once the latter has been cooked in the oven. 

Shëndetlie, one of the oldest Albanian recipes, is a very sweet, tasty dessert.

8. Imam Bajalldi

Imam Bajalldi is another bizarre Albanian food with some eastern influences. It consists of large stuffed eggplants cooked in the oven. Ingredients used as fillings vary with regions but they most commonly include garlic, onions, and tomato puree. Other complementing condiments of the recipe are dill, pressed pepper, and olive oil giving to this plate a more Mediterranean feel. Imam Bajalldi is the ideal traditional summer dish. Fresh and on-season ingredients combine their powers to serve as an effective and natural appetite stimulant. 

Imam Bajalldi is a fulfilling dish ideally prepared with fresh ingredients.

9. Tavë Krapi (Carp Casserole)

Albania is a seaside country with a long stretch of coastline. The waters of the Adriatic and the Ionian Sea, as well as those of the major lakes and rivers provide fresh authentic ingredients for the seafood lovers. Many restaurants and households across the Albanian riviera offer freshly caught and cooked fish in the oven. For the best and most authentic gastronomic experience try the “Tavë Krapi” (“Carp Casserole”) of the Shkodra region in northwest Albania.

Tavë Krapi” (“Carp Casserole”) is one of many fish-based recipes of the Albanian cuisine.

10. Speca të mbushura (Stuffed Peppers)

“Speca të mbushura” (“Stuffed Peppers”) is another meal commonly cooked in Albanian households. It’s frequently prepared and consumed during summer. As the name tells, the dish is made with fresh peppers filled with ground beef, tomato sauce, onions, and seasonal herbs. The stuffing can vary depending on the preferences of the cooker thus, the dish offers room for creative recipe variations.

“Speca të mbushura” (“Stuffed Peppers”) is commonly prepared among Albanian households.

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