Albania’s largely meat-based cuisine brings together elements of Slavic, Turkish and Italian fare. 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.

Drink

As for drinks, coffee is king in Albania. Consumed throughout the day, it’s traditionally served Turkish-style, with grounds at the bottom (kafe turke), though there has recently been a marked shift towards espresso. There are cafés everywhere you look, 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 fare; 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.

Essentials

Everything you need to know before you set off.

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