Albanian food is a delicious mix of the many cultures that have invaded the country over the centuries: Turkish, Greek, Italian, along with delicious seafood from its coastline. There are flavours of the Mediterranean, with plenty of olive oil, and meat dishes consisting of beef, lamb, pork and poultry.
Here are our top recommendations for tasty, traditional food and drink to try when you're in Albania:
What to eat in Albania?
Qofte - much like Turkish Kofte, these are meatballs, often served flat like a little burger patty with salad.
Souvlaki - not to be confused with the Greek skewers, these are similar to a Doner kebab and sold in fast food shops: thick unleavened bread or pitta filled with chicken, salad, tzatziki and chips. Very cheap (about £1.20!) and filling, these are perfect for mopping up a big night after a few beers.
Speca te Mbushur - Hearty and savoury stuffed peppers filled with ground beef and rice and roasted or baked in the oven.
Qifqi - a speciality of the UNESCO city of Gjirokaster, Qifqi (prounounced Chiff Chee) are similar to Italian arancini - savoury rice balls bound by egg, made with herbs and crispy on the outside.
Fërgese - a very traditional dish similar to cottage cheese, made with spices, peppers, tomatoes and onions. This dish is very popular and extremely tasty!
Byrek - we first discovered Byrek in Croatia, and it can be found all over the Balkans. Served sliced or cut into triangles, this flaky, savoury pie is made with filo pastry, often filled with spinach, cheese or ground meat.
Fish - virtually the whole of Albania's western edge is coastline, and they have a plethora of outstanding fish dishes on the menu, especially down in the Albanian Riviera. From whole grilled fish like trout and sea bass, to octopus, prawns, calamari and mussels, the seafood is fresh, delicious and very inexpensive!
3 Albanian desserts you have to try
Trileçe - the name means "three milks". This soft sweet sponge cake is made with milk, cream and condensed milk, and is usually served with a caramelised top and swimming in milk or cream. Naughty and delicious.
Oshaf - another Gjirokaster speciality, this must try dessert is made with dried figs topped with a whipped mousse like pudding made with sheep's milk and dusted with cinnamon. Divine!!
Ice cream - with Italy just across the Adriatic sea, it's no surprise that ice cream is so popular in Albania. Creamy and sweet, you'll find it on sale for about 50p for a scoop.
What to drink in Albania
Raki - this spirit is the national drink of Albania. Made from distilled grapes, it doesn't have the strong aniseed notes of ouzo or sambuca and can also be made from mulberries, walnuts or plums. Raki is served as a digestif, an aperitif or even a morning pick me up!
Skenderbeu - known locally as cognac, this is an Albanian brandy, named after the national hero who led a rebellion against the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century.
Beer - light and fizzy lagers like Tirana, Elbar and Korçe are the most popular. Korçe has both a blonde and a dark version, the latter is similar to Newcastle Brown.
Coffee - coffee and cafe culture is extremely popular in Albania. People gather to socialise and have meetings over tiny cups of strong coffee, either Italian style espresso or Turkish style, which we found to be very strong, thick and gritty.
If you're in Tirana, head to award winning restaurant Mullixhiu, where they have a mouth watering tasting menu featuring 8 courses of traditional dishes served with modern flair.
You can read our review post with plenty of photos here!