Restaurants are very easy to find. Albania, like the Balkans in general, has a primarily Turkish influence in its cuisine. This influence stems from over 400 years of Ottoman rule in the region. Recent influences after the fall of communism in the early 1990s have been from Italy and Western Europe in general. Most of what is available in neighboring countries such as Greece and Italy will be available in Albania, particularly in the larger cities.
Many people grow fruits and vegetables around their houses, most popularly all kinds of grapes, (red, black, green), that are used to make raki.
Albania is a very mountainous country, and these mountains have scattered olive trees that influence Albanian cuisine. Salads are usually made with fresh tomato and onion. Most Albanian people make their own bread, but going out for meals is very common.
Some sort of hearty stew is commonly included in Albanian dinners. These stews are easy to make, and flexible with ingredients. They include potatoes, onion, rice, etc.
If going to Albania, expect lamb to be the main meat in many places. Lamb there is naturally fed, and does not have any odor like it does in North America. Two byreks and an ayran is a very common breakfast, so try it to understand why.
- Byrek – a type of savory pie is also common, and is made in different ways. One way is with spinach and feta cheese. Another is with ground meat and onion. Byrek Shqipëtar me perime is often considered the national dish.
- Tavë kosi – It is a simple dish of baked lamb and rice, served with a yogurt sauce. It is sometimes referred to as a national dish in Albania.
- Qofte të fërguara – Albanian fried meatballs with feta cheese. Traditionally served with fried poatoes or rice.
- Cheese – lots of different types but mostly feta cheese. In village shops be prepared that you’ll get the cheese in less hygienic way then in supermarkets but it’s worth to try as it’s usually delicious and in very good price (try those higher priced first). The “Gjirofarma” feta cheese is similar to the Greek feta cheese, although a bit more expensive. However, most of the restaurants, especially in Tirana and the southern part of the country, use this cheese. It’s very delicious, and it’s one of the few cheeses that are exported from Albania.
Desserts and snacks – Don’t forget to check out the many pastry shops (pastiçeri) offering a wide variety of tasty pastry including delicious cakes and:
- Baklava is a popular dessert and is always made as a dessert during New Year’s Eve.
- Oshaf – A fig and sheep’s milk pudding