Traditional Food And Drinks
The dishes of Albania have their roots with the ancient Ottoman Empire. The combination of richly fertile land, proximity to the sea, and blurry cultural lines with their neighbours have culminated in a modern cuisine that is both diverse and simple. Modern day influences include Greece, Italy, and Turkey.
Meat and vegetables are the staple, along with heavy stews, pickled cabbage, feta cheese, breads, rice, and smoked meat. The most popular veg grown are eggplants, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, olives (which accompany most meals), and legumes. Very Mediterranean indeed! Vegetarians be warned. There are a lot of salads in your future – luckily, there’s plenty of fresh produce to enjoy.
Travellers can divide the country into three regions. In the north, the staple is ground corn. Not only is it used for most breads, it’s also versatile enough to make both sweet and salty dishes. The climate is good there which means there is a variety of fresh vegetables and fruit. You’ll see mostly potatoes, carrots, cabbage, kidney beans, onions, garlic, and walnuts. Traditional dishes in the north include meat and vegetable casseroles, pasta, chicken, rice, sudjuk (similar to salami), and petula (fried dough made sweet or savoury). If you visit Shkoder, you’ll be able to enjoy carp and acne dishes thanks to the many lakes and rivers nearby.
Central Albania has the kind of soil that can grow just about anything. Poultry features heavily in dishes here – duck, goose, chicken, and turkey are all raised here. Fishermen catch flounder, perch, gray mullet, and sole in the Adriatic Sea. You’ll find egg, spinach, or cabbage cakes, nettle cakes, liver, and curd. Tav elbasani is a highlight you won’t want to miss. It’s made by baking meat in yogurt.
Most of the cattle are raised in the southern region of Albania, which means that dairy products often take centre stage in dishes. It’s well known for fantastic hard and soft cheeses, as well as kefir so thick that you could cut it with a knife. The climate is warmer here and so you’ll find citrus and olive groves throughout the area.
Other regions worth noting are the Berat region where you’ll find the Balkans largest fig plantations. The fig jam and dried figs always make popular gifts. Myzeqe produces turkey and Albanians say the turkey and mash (a kind of stew) is the best here. And along the Albanian Riviera you’ll find fantastic seafood options year round. Whatever you’re in the mood for, you can be certain it was caught fresh that morning.
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In addition to the most common drinks, such as coffee and juice, Albania has a strong preference for mineral water, which is generally carbonated. They also enjoy carbonated soft drinks along with tea and a local buttermilk called dhalle.
Although no alcoholic beverages are exceedingly popular, for those who do drink, beer, raki (a brandy usually distilled from plums or grapes), cognac, and even some locally produced wines are the most commonly consumed. Imported beers, wines, and hard liquors are also available.