25 April 2012

Albanian Food

 Albania is a long, thin country.  The cuisine changes as one heads south between the Mediterranean and a backcloth of high mountains, from hearty alpine fare in the north to lighter Greek-tinged dishes near the bottom border.  This is a land of charcoal smoke and fishy fry-ups, of many bakeries and ever turning spits – Albanian food is surprising and unique, and the cooks here take a lot of pride in what they cook.
At a shady outdoor table in Gjirokastra, overlooking stone alleys and whitewashed houses, we tucked into a plate of Kujtimi restaurant’s specialty: bretkosë. That’s frog legs, if you’re curious.  It’s a dish that Albanians are crazy about (much more so than the French).  From the window of a speeding furgon we once saw whole frogs roasting over a spinning fire.  The two times we've ordered them, though, they've come lightly breaded and fried.
 A first conversation about Albanian food, though – the first phrase in their culinary vocabulary, perhaps – would be about lamb and about all the ways one can roast it.  Lambs, often whole, rotate lazily on spits in the mountains, on the plains, on the city sidewalks of Tirana and on the beaches of the Riviera.  Lamb organs are just as common - everything from liver to brains to zorrë e mbushur, which I saw translated on one menu as "stuffed gut."  I had an interesting time eating roast lamb's head in the capital, and have had a hard time avoiding it since.  These chunks of melting fat and succulent meat were grilled for me by a dour man over a spitting fire, seasoned lightly and served simply.
 In Tirana’s markets, beside great bins of olives and strings of figs, one can find all manner of pickled vegetables – sometimes simple, sometimes elaborate.  Peppers and beets are popular, as are whole cabbages.  We couldn’t pass up this patëllxhan turshi, or pickled and stuffed eggplant, which was one of the stranger finds.  The skin was still crisp, the flesh tasted mostly of salt, the juices of the eggplant and cabbage had a heady, almost alcoholic burn.
 In fact, vegetables – fresh as well as pickled – are surprisingly abundant here.  Everywhere along the roads and beside bus stops, men and women sell fresh herbs and salad greens, cucumbers and (under-ripe) spring tomatoes.  Salads are blessedly popular, imaginative and usually huge.  Among the most simple and satisfying is the ubiquitous jeshile, a green kind of dill, lettuce and olive mix.
 Our first Albanian byrek (pronounced “burr-eck”) was from a man at a plywood and corrugated tin stand in Tirana.  He sold us our spinach pie with a huge smile – it was delicious on a chilly morning, full of rough-chopped greens and scallions.
Byrek is the local name for börek, which is a staple food in most ex-Ottoman places from Ankara to Athens to Zagreb, so we’ve seen this flaky-crust and oily filling before.  They can be stuffed with cheese, ground meat or greens – something like a flatter, thinner spanakopita (itself a derivative, but don’t tell the Greeks that).  This woman in the south made wonderfully toothsome versions with a firm crust.
A Gjirokastra specialty, these little balls of egg and rice are cooked in special pans, like shallow muffin tins, and taste wonderfully of mint leaves.  They’re called qifqi (“keef-kee”), and the man who made them for us was exceedingly proud, though his wife really did all the cooking.  On a cool night, served beside fried sardines and excellent local wine (a rarity, sadly), they were a perfect, filling starch.
At a table by the sea in sleepy, offseason Himara, I had this pasta dish in the exact way that Albanians like their spaghetti: nearly dry, with only a little olive oil, parsley and spice to highlight the starch.  There was tuna mixed in too, a nod to the water.  They were out of any of the small fish they might have mixed in.
According to tradition, Albanian cuisine is a mix of Greek and Turkish influences – but in practice, it’s Italy that has lent some of the most important flavors.  Under Italian rule for a time in the twentieth century, and only a short boatride away from Puglia, the country soaked up pasta and risotto, proshutë and domate.  Italian dishes are on almost every menu not strictly "traditional."
My favorite meal in Albania was the first one, at Oda restaurant in rainy Tirana.  We drank local beer followed by raki, dried out and warmed up.  This peculiar, transcendent dish was called harapash, but was described in English as "lamb innards with corn starch."  Luckily, it was more of a polenta with liver and - as the waiter hedged - "maybe some spleen."  The corn was light and buttery, the liver was perfectly cooked and tender, the whole thing was fragrant with herbs.  It was a meal that one would have a hard time making up, something that seems both simple and unlikely.  I looked for the dish again but never found it.

19 comments:

  1. Get ready - I'm coming to Albania to eat with you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Loan offer with 0% interest contact Lightstreamloanlender@gmail.com for any Financial help....Business loan, loan to acquire a House or a Car etc....

      Delete
  2. The tastiest food of the world, in my opinion. Besa www.facebook.com/albanianrecipes

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi!we are heading to Albania (and Macedonia) in 15 days. Would you share some of the names of the restaurants/palces where you had the best food there?thanks!sara and matteo

    ReplyDelete
  4. eToro is the most recommended forex broker for new and professional traders.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for sharing this wonderful blog.
    amazing information.
    keep it up.
    Motivational thought

    ReplyDelete
  6. NOOO im albanian and i have never seen or heard of any of these foods. Horribly false

    ReplyDelete
  7. Loan offer with 0% interest contact Lightstreamloanlender@gmail.com for any Financial help....Business loan, loan to acquire a House or a Car etc....

    ReplyDelete
  8. In the post you have written, what you have to tell and explain is very unique, along with your beautiful post, your recipe is very tasty, it tastes great and the way to make it is excellent.
    Gurugram escorts
    Gurugram girls

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    sector 15 escorts
    Apologizing to friends

    ReplyDelete
  9. Do you need Finance?
    Are you looking for Finance?
    Are you looking for a money to enlarge your business?
    We help individuals and companies to obtain loan for business
    expanding and to setup a new business ranging any amount. Get a
    loan at affordable interest rate of 2%, Do you need this cash/loan
    for business and to clear your bills? Then send us an email now
    for more information contact us now whatspp Number +918929490461
    Contact Us At : abdullahibrahimlender@gmail.com
    Mr Abdullah Ibrahim

    ReplyDelete
  10. My name is Mrs Aisha Mohamed, am a Citizen Of Qatar.Have you been looking for a loan?Do you need an urgent personal loan or business loan?contact Dr James Eric Finance Home he help me with a loan of $42,000 some days ago after been scammed of $2,800 from a woman claiming to been a loan lender but i thank God today that i got my loan worth $42,000.Feel free to contact the company for a genuine financial service. Email:(financialserviceoffer876@gmail.com) call/whats-App Contact Number +918929509036

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hello Everybody,

    My name is Bhagwan Kumawzt by name and I live in the POLAND and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation get any kind of loan you need today, thank you, as you read greatest testimony of my life. with whatsapp+919667837169

    Testimony of a serious loan acquired, thank you very much Dr. Mark for your loan assistance of 100,000(US DOLLARS) without any upfront fee,that you give me. I will talk about your services to those around me who need a loan or financing. I am happy with the loan you have granted me Do not hesitate,if you need a loan and a real legit loan lender so just kindly contact him now and get your loan via:: markthomasfinanceltd@gmail.com whatsapp number: +919667837169

    Whats-App no +919667837169
    Company Name Ronnie Finance Ltd
    Dr. Mark Thomas

    ReplyDelete
  12. As much as your thinking is praised, it is very important to have a beautiful thinking to write a beautiful post and indeed such a beautiful post is rarely seen as much as the beautiful post you have written, it is a very beautiful of my life The post is what I saw today.
    call girls in gurugram
    Different Relationships
    Bhiwadi Escorts Servcie
    Russian escort in gurugram

    ReplyDelete

  13. I am a private money lender and Investor, Do you need a legit, honest, reputable and quick loan? I can help you with 100% guarantee loan, I am offering business and individual loan, More also we finance all kind of projects. Waiting to hear from you to enable us send you the loan application form or for more details contact


    CONTACT LENDER COMPANY:

    C.E.O. Deby Johnson.
    debyfinancingloans@gmail.com
    Whatsapp Number: +447459797459
    Whatsapp Number: +918375004762
    DEBY FINANCING LOANS COMPANY

    ReplyDelete

  14. Do you need 100% Loan Finance? huge capital Private finance for business expansion, new project start up. We offer our services to both government and companies in any part of the globe. Our services falls in various ranges like direct funding program, short and long term funding program,Discounting of bank Financial Instruments,Letter of Credit against acceptable bank instruments, Asset trading – Trade finance Etc.

    C.E.O. Deby Johnson.
    debyfinancingloans@gmail.com
    Whatsapp Number: +447459797459
    Whatsapp Number: +918375004762
    DEBY FINANCING LOANS COMPANY

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hello, Money creates wealth, one credit = One dream.  This is the only way to get reliable credit without resorting to a bank.
    For all your projects;
    1, Debt Repair, Personal Loans, Business Loans, Import Loans.
    2, Travel Loans, Vacation Loans
    3 Investments, foreign recapitalization loans
    4 Loans Educational and medical loans
    5 Government and Public Loan
    We are International and local loan lender, We offer loans with a capital base between a minimum range of three thousand (3,000.00) and a maximum range of ten million (10,000,000.00) at 5% interest rate depending, We give out loan to an Individuals, firms and corporate bodies even those with bad credit history depending on their marital status, sex, religion, and location but must have a legal means of repaying back the loan at the stipulated time, And must be trust worthy.
    Hurry up and reply back.
    For Directories :
    Email: sunfinanceloanlendingcompany@gmail.com
    WhatsApp number :-  +393512918858
    A reply will be highly appreciated after this message.
    Regards.
    Mrs Sunny Panni,
    Online Loan Director.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Need a Debt Loan To Pay Off Bills?
    Take control of your debt today
    Available Now Business Expansion Loan Offer?
    Do you need a loan to pay off Bills?
    Do you need a loan?
    Do you need Personal Loan?
    Business Expansion Loan?
    Business Start-up, Education,
    Debt Consolidation Loan
    Hard Money Loans
    Loan for any thing ?
    We offer loan at low interest rate of 3%
    Loan with no credit check,
    Email us: financialserviceoffer876@gmail.com
    Call or add us on what's app +918929509036

    ReplyDelete
  17. Hi all, I have seen comments from people who have already received a loan from Anderson Loan Finance. I really thought it was a scam and applied for a loan based on their recommendations because I really needed a loan. A few days ago, I confirmed on my personal bank account the amount of $12,000.00 USD that I had requested for a personal loan with a rental percentage of 2%. This is really good news that I am satisfied with and I advise anyone who needs a real loan and is sure to repay the loan to contact them by e-mail.

    They can lend you any type of loan!
    Please contact Mr. Anderson Ray
    Email: andersonraymondloanfinance@gmail.com
    Phone: +1 315-329-6320
    VAT number EE101252401
    Website:https: //andersonraymondloanfinance.wordpress.com/
    Office address @ (68 Fremont Ave Penrose CO, 81240).

    Respectful,

    2020 © All Right Reserved.

    ReplyDelete