Albania’s largely meat-based cuisine brings together elements of Slavic, Turkish and Italian cuisines. Spit-roasted lamb is the traditional dish of choice, though today it’s qebab (kebabs) and qoftë (grilled lamb rissoles) that dominate menus, often served with a bowl of kos (yogurt). Another interesting dish is fergesë, a mix of egg, onions and tomatoes (and meat in some regions) cooked in a clay pot. Vegetarians will find that filling, generous salads are ubiquitous, and seafood is also plentiful around the coast. But for all this choice the modern Albanian youth – and many a tourist – subsists almost entirely on snack food, particularly burek, a pastry filled with cheese, meat or spinach; and sufllaqë, sliced kebab meat and french fries stuffed in a roll of flatbread. There are some excellent desserts on offer, including spongy shendetlije, cream-saturated trilece, and the usual Turkish pastries.
Coffee is king in Albania. Consumed throughout the day, espresso now trumps the old traditional Turkish-style, with grounds at the bottom (kafe turke). There are cafés on every corner, and it’s worth noting that cafés and bars generally melt into the same grey area – what’s one by day will usually morph into the other by night.
The alcoholic drink of choice is raki – like coffee, this spirit is something of a way of life in Albania, and usually consumed with meals. The country also produces some good wine, mostly red, though most locals will own to a preference for Macedonian varieties; Rilindja is a good, easy-to-find local label. Beer is easy to find, and it’s also worth sampling Skënderbeg cognac, which is cheap, available in shops everywhere and not too bad at all.