The Albanian cuisine is a representative of the cuisine of the Mediterranean. It is also an example of the Mediterranean diet based on the importance of olive oil, fruits, vegetables and fish. The cooking traditions of the Albanian people are diverse in consequence of the environmental factors that are more importantly suitable for the cultivation of nearly all kinds of herbs, vegetables and fruits. Olive oil is the most ancient and commonly used vegetable fat in Albanian cooking, produced since antiquity throughout the country particularly along the coasts.
Hospitality is a fundamental custom of Albanian society and serving food is integral to the hosting of guests and visitors. It is not infrequent for visitors to be invited to eat and drink with locals. The medieval Albanian code of honour, called besa, resulted to look after guests and strangers as an act of recognition and gratitude.
Albanian cuisine can be divided into three major regional cuisines. The cuisine of the northern region has a rural, coastal and mountainous origin. Meat, fish and vegetables are central to the cuisine of the northern region. The people there use many kinds of ingredients, which usually grow in the region including potatoes, carrots, maizes, beans, cabbages but also cherries, walnuts and almonds. Garlic and onions are as well important components to the local cuisine and added to almost every dish.
The cuisine of the central region is threefold of rural, mountainous and coastal. The central region is the flattest and rich in vegetation and biodiversity as well as culinary specialties. It has Mediterranean characteristics due to its proximity to the sea, which is rich in fish. Dishes here include several meat specialties and desserts of all kinds.
In the south, the cuisine is composed of two components: the rural products of the field including dairy products, citrus fruits and olive oil, and coastal products, i.e. seafood. Those regions are particularly conducive to raising animals, as pastures and feed resources are abundant.
Besides garlic, onions are arguably the country’s most widely used ingredient. Albania is ranked second in the world in terms of onion consumption per capita.
Albanian National Dishes
Tavë kosi (“soured milk casserole”) is a national dish in Albania. It is a dish of lamb (occasionally chicken, then called tavë kosi me mish pule) and rice baked with a mixture of yogurt and eggs (replacing the original soured milk) added to a roux (wheat flour and butter). It is also popular in Greece and Turkey, where it is known as Elbasan tava (Albanian: Tavë Elbasani or Tava e Elbasanit), named after the Albanian city of Elbasan.