Albania Mania? It is actually not a bad thing! It is a positive mania that has captivated foreigners, who have started to enjoy trips into traditional Albanian cuisine and local organic delights. This is also how Modern Farmer titled the main article published recently in the portal, which defines Albania as a culinary arena, original and with a variety of flavors of artisanal cuisine; the wonderland of everyone who dreams of organic traditional food.
But sorry, you will not find menus boasting free range, local or organic, writes journalist Tyler LeBlanc. That’s because you’d be hard-pressed to find a meal anywhere in this 11,000-square-mile nation that hasn’t been grown organically on the very property where it’s being served. Wedged between northern Greece, Kosovo, Macedonia, the mountains of Montenegro and the warm waters of the Ionian and Adriatic Seas, Albania is a small but fiercely proud country with a unique history, language and cuisine, one that is heavy with Italian and Turkish influence, yet unmistakably Albanian.
Albania is a small but fiercely proud country with a unique history, language and cuisine, unmistakably Albanian
From grapes to peppers, goats, fish and sheep, Albanian food is all about fresh ingredients and tried-and-true recipes that will leave you in awe of how good simple food can be.
Start from the capital, Tirana, and head southeast through the tree-dotted mountains, where you’ll find lots of hearty veggies, cheese and lamb. As you near the coast, heading northward from the Greek border, fish begins to take over. Squid, bream and bass are common throughout this region, as are pasta and pizza (Italy is only 50 miles away from some southwest areas).
What does a typical Albanian food experience consist of? To start: You’ll probably be sitting at a thick oak table overlooking the blue-green Ionian Sea with the strong scent of wild sage in the air. Next, your table is filled with dips, bread and the ubiquitous salad of southeast Europe — a heaping bowl filled with large chunks of fresh tomato, cucumber, salty feta and green olives. Your main course is grilled lamb, served with heaping plates of roasted eggplant and zucchini, or fresh whole fish and a healthy portion of Burek (a local savory pastry made with spinach and minced meat). Finally, it’s time for a generous shot of raki — a local grape spirit, a natural digestive and the preferred way to finish up a true Albanian feast.
The journalist visited Sotira Farm in Germenj, Korce, Berat, Butrint to Gjirokaster and described the hospitability he found in the ancient Albanian cities, which proudly demonstrate to visitors castles of the 12th century and houses of the 18th century. While taking about the flavors of mussels and fish, different kinds of cheese and traditional sauces, the journalist ends his storytelling with the traditional dish of “qifqi”, the famous rice meatballs, characteristic of Gjirokastra, which he defines as a must try, accompanied with the well-known Albanian wine Shesh i Zi, a glass, or even three.
*The original article published in Modern Farmer website