During our time in Albania we enjoyed heavy lunches and late dinners, with little snacks in between. One thing is for sure; you always want to go for a siesta after lunch. Throughout this post you will see countless items that are popular not only in Albania, but all over the Balkans.
We learned how important food is to Albanians on our very first day: for lunch we had a gigantic meal full of meats, potatoes, and salce kosi (thick, slightly tart yogurt dip), washed down with a couple beers and some wine to be safe. Then, we arrived in Tirana around 10pm to find a table filled with more food than we could possibly eat. In Albania, generous serving sizes are considered a must to being a good host. As we were mostly on the road, we ate out often, but we still did get our fair share of home cooked meals as well.
Although Mark did not like the distinct taste of this dish, I quite enjoyed my breakfast trahana, which is a mixture of grain and yogurt that has been fermented and dried out. It looks like couscous and when combined with water results in a soup-like texture. It has a slightly acidic taste, which I love when combined with feta, shredded bread, and a hefty dose of olive oil.
Petulla is fried dough that can be dipped in any of the numerous dips or feta. If you want something sweet, you can also roll these around in a bit of sugar for breakfast … just don’t log its calories!
These are basically grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice and spices. In Greece and surrounding countries, these are also very popular as dolmades. We did not quite like the taste of these, but thought it was worth a try.
This is a must try when in Albania! We ate it as part of every single meal. This can be described as being similar to the Greek tzatziki. It is very thick yogurt mixed together with garlic, salt, and sometimes cucumbers or walnuts, topped with what else but olive oil! It’s a delicious dip and quite nice with French fries and qofte (meatballs).
There are two dominant cheeses in Albania; feta (djath I bardhë) and semi-hard salty yellow cheese (djath kackavall). There is no such thing as a small piece of cheese in Albania. If you are ordering cheese, you’re probably getting at least 5–7 large pieces. It’s quite popular to eat feta together with watermelon, especially on a hot summer day. When ordering a salad, you’re most definitely getting a huge piece of feta on top, similar to what you would see in Greece.
These homemade long meatballs are really delicious when washed down with some beer. We ordered some delicious cevapcici from the beer garden at Birra Korça we visited in Korçë.
Looks familiar? That’s because suflaqe is pretty much like the Greek gyro. These are quite popular all over Albania. The contents are shaved meat, salce kosi, tomatoes, salad, and French fries, all wrapped up in nice warm pita bread. We ordered these several times as it was quick and delicious.
You will find many versions of this beloved food in the Balkans as well as in Turkey. Whether the dough is filled with spinach, feta, beans, or meat, you can’t escape trying it somewhere in the Balkans. It is quite satisfying as a meal of its own or simply as a snack. We quite loved the cheese filling, with our favorites being homemade ones in Albania. Often, you’ll buy this together with dhallë (drinkable yogurt) to wash it down.
Especially along the coast, you can find a lot of restaurants serving up great tasting and healthy char-grilled fresh fish. This was a welcomed meal after all the suflaqe.
This is a popular homemade meal, which consists of whole peppers stuffed with a mixture of rice and minced meat. Sprinkle some feta on top and you’re in for a filling meal. We found this dish is also quite popular in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
This is definitely one of my favorite foods. Making this dish is quite simple, all you need to do is mix farmer’s cheese with tomatoes, lots of peppers, eggs, and spices, and then let it simmer. This dish is always nice to eat with some freshly baked bread!
It’s quite common to see advertisements for whole pit roasted lamb, especially in mountainous areas. We stopped at a restaurants specializing in meats and ordered a serving of lamb and other meats. Although the meat was quite tender, we tended to like the biftek (char grilled beef) more.
This is a tomato-based stew with beans, which is quite popular in the Balkans. It’s considered a comfort food and is also sometimes eaten for breakfast. We didn’t particularly like it.
Yet another dessert that’s popular all over the Balkans. The dish on the left of the picture is baklava, made from filo layers filled with chopped-up nuts and drenched in syrup. On the right you can see tulumba (Albanian churros), which is fried up batter also drenched in syrup. There is no way of escaping these sweet treats, however we liked to eat them accompanied by some strong black coffee to counterbalance the sweetness.
This is a popular drink to order on the beach. Coffee-based drinks are really important in Albania, and we stopped about every two hours for a coffee break. Basically, there wasn’t a rest stop without a coffee included, which we didn’t mind at all since we always got a perfect espresso macchiato.
In some countries it’s apples, in Albania it’s a shot of raki a day that keeps the doctor away. Another thing you can’t escape without trying at least once in the Balkans is raki. This strong drink produced from grapes is simply put, intense. We didn’t quite like it, but it’s worth a try.
This type of Fanta is our favorite kind as it has a passion fruit like taste to it, although we usually don’t drink carbonated drinks, this was our to go drink on the beach. This flavor can be spotted in some European countries, but in Albania it was available almost everywhere.
Well, you can’t leave Albania without going clubbing at least once, so we decided to get this popular drink and as the name suggests … this drink is basically a mix or hard liquors with a dash of blue curacao. There isn’t much 7Up in the Albanian version.
This is a special tea from the mountains of Albania and it has a very distinctive taste to it. We loved this drink and drank it every evening even though it was summer. It’s definitely a must try.
We, Mark & Herta, are currently backpacking through Europe, and eventually planning to settle in London. Beyond that? The possibilities are endless.Read Mark & Herta’s full story.