On our culinary journey through the Balkans, we were visiting Albania.
A country that left us surprised by the kindness and sympathy of its people, its beautiful beaches, its extraordinary mountains and panoramas and, as expected, its food.
Albania was our first contact with the Balkans, after spending a few days in Greece and I must admit that I knew very little about this wonderful country. I was very surprised to find a town that speaks Italian in a very high percentage. This is perhaps due to its geographical proximity to southern Italy and the commercial exchanges that historically occurred between these two countries. For us that detail facilitated communication and was what allowed us to open many chefs’ kitchen doors to share with us their deepest secrets. It was an anthropological discovery to see that the small barriers that could be formed at the beginning by the language, disappeared immediately upon discovering this common language.
The gastronomic map of Albania, which we went hand in hand into the area we saw that it is very similar to the rest of the Balkans, it also has its own characteristics. On the Adriatic coast, as expected, fishes and seafood are everywhere. The use of olive oil, olives, tomato, feta cheese, yogurt, are also common in Albania. In the north, meat is widely used, in general beef, although innumerable recipes with lamb are also highlighted and as far as poultry are concerned chicken, goose and turkey are commonly consumed. Its national dish, the Tave Kosi, is lamb meat and rice baked with a special sauce of yogurt and eggs, which can remind us of some Greek dishes.
In Albania it was the first time we tried the Cepavi, a kind of spicy and elongated meatball that can be found in all the Balkans and that generally serve with French fries. We also tried his version of musaka (delicious) and seafood in all its versions.
We were able to confirm the strong Turkish influence in the cuisine in Albania, which highlights the boreks, sucuks, sarmas. But also, its gastronomic map is influenced by the cuisine of countries like Italy and Greece.
Vegetables and fresh fruits are common in the Albanian diet, thanks to weather permitting.