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Mirë se vini! The Republic of Albania awaits you to discover its unique history, colourful culture, and tasty cuisine. Bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, Macedonia to the east, and Greece to the south and southeast, it is actually no wonder why Albania is such a hidden country. And, being hidden has its perks, and that is what makes it a great place to discover and explore.Albania’s coastline extends along the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. It is a small country with a variety of weather types during the winter and summer seasonsdepending all on landmass in the regions. Despite all this though, Albania has a rich diversity of animal life and vegetation, which is something all visitors should look forward to.

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The country is also ranked as one of the top 10 best tourist spots in Eastern Europe by the National Geographic Channel’s, The Lonely Planet. Why? Well, Albania makes sure they get complete tours of historical and cultural heritage sites within the country, experience the national festivities during holidays, and relax on the sands of the country’s many beautiful and pristine beaches.

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However, the only way to experience a country is through its cuisine. That is the only way to smell the aromas, taste the natural spices, and feel the history and love of the people who have lived in the country for centuries. So, let us see what is on the menu in Albania.

 

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Tavëkosi

One of Albania’s national dishes is the tavëkosi, which has a high Turkish influence. During the early 14th century A.D., the Ottoman Empire began to expand its territory and began scattering their influence over many smaller kingdoms. The Albanians at the time were very cooperative and allowed themselves to immerse in the Turkish culture. Tavëkosiis a fairly simple dish to make, for it is made of baked lamb chops and cooked rice, which is then combinedwith a yoghurt and egg mixture and then baked again. The yoghurt rises up and solidifies into a quiche-like texture making a layer on top of the dish, so it sort of resembles a Shepherd’s pie or a lasagne. The yoghurt gives the dish sort of a tart taste against the strong juices of the lamb.

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[one_half_last]Tavekosi[/one_half_last]

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Tarator

In Albania, the tarator is a very popular Balkan dish especially made by the locals during the summer time. It is a sort of cold soup mixture made of yoghurt, garlic, parsley, olive oil, salt, and slices of cucumber. The dish is also quite popular with the Greeks, the Bulgarians, the Turks, and other Mediterranean countries like Jordan and Syria. There is no actual story behind the name of the dish because a ‘tarator’ is actually known to be a mythical creature – a dwarf of some two and a half meters tall that has a green leathery skin with a foul temperament.

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[one_half_last]Tarator[/one_half_last]

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Dolma

Another popular Balkan inspired dish is that of dolma,which is a stuffedvegetable dish. The more common vegetables to stuff are that of tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, zucchinis, and eggplants. Fillingsusually consist purely of rice, minced meat, andother grains. Some fillings include aromatics like onion, natural and local herbs, dill, mint, parsley, and other spices. Meatless fillings are cooked with olive oil and usually have raisins or currants, onion, and nuts.Sometimes dolmas are just grape or cabbage leaves wrapping the usual filling. The dolma stuffing may or may not have meat. That all depends on the cook.However, meat dolmas are generally served warm, compared to the vegetable dolmas which are served cold, and often with egg-lemon or garlic yogurt sauce.[/one_half]

[one_half_last]Dolma[/one_half_last]

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Bukëmisri

Of course, every country has its own version of corn bread pudding, and for Albania it is known as bukëmisri. This is a type of bread made of chickpea flour, which originatedin Turkey and brought to Albania and is known as the “grab and go bread.” What is most unique about this bread is that instead of using regular yeast, bakers use yeast made from chickpeas. The chickpea yeast is mixed with flour and water and left out overnight to rise in a warm place. The next day, the risen dough can be cut into pieces, placed on a tray, and then baked.

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[one_half_last]Bukemisri[/one_half_last]

 

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Baklava

This decadent dessert’s origin is still quite unclear. Some theories say that it originated from the Ottomans, while others say it came from Mesopotamia. One thing for sure is that baklava is somewhat of a very rare treat and is only served during special occasions, especially during or after Ramadan, or served to special people because its preparation is quite arduous in a way. This dessert is normally prepared in rectangular pans – large for big occasions and small for smaller servings. Layers of phyllo dough (thin pieces of pastry), which are separated with melted butter,or pieces of thin or sweet breadare laid on the pan. Chopped nuts— usually walnuts, hazelnuts, or pistachios— are placed on the top. After that, more layers of phyllo or sweet bread top the nuts. The number of layers depends on the pastry chef.

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[one_half_last]Baklava[/one_half_last]

Some people like small, bite-sized pieces, so the layers are not usually topped to high.And, before baking the pastry, the dough is cut into regular pieces like triangles or rectangles.A syrup made out of honey, rosewater, or orange flower water is often poured over the cooked baklava and allowed to soak in. Later, the dessert is served at room temperature and garnished with ground nuts like pistachio or walnuts. Delicious!

And, the list can go on and on with pies like byrek and bakllasarem, appetizers like lakerturshi, and desserts like halve and lokum (Turkish delight). Albania is a small country but rich in its cultural heritage. Its beautiful landscapes and captivating scenery is something to see. But, its rich cuisine is absolutely something to experience. So, “amundteshohmenunë, julutem?”