Albanian cuisine: What makes Shkodra food & cuisine unique…
When I decided to write about Albanian cuisine, at first I thought that a single article would be enough, then I decided to divide it into northern dishes & southern ones. The more I got into the unique dishes the more challenging it became to fit all of the northern albanian cuisine in a single blog page. In the end, I decided to start with what is special about Shkodra food. To move next into another region of Albanian cuisine.
About Shkodra food
Given its location, Shkodra is blessed with all sorts of food and its cuisine reflects it perfectly. It is rich in fish (lake, rivers, sea), meat (lamb, goat, beef, pork, chicken, duck, turkey) and plenty of locally grown fruits & vegetables.
For centuries Shkoder has been an important trading center and this has influenced its cuisine and drinks, unfortunately for us the fifty years of communist isolation created a lack in the supply chain so people had to be creative in cooking something decent with less ingredients.
Today not only we have access to all the ingredients but we are also trying to add new dishes or mix with other neighbour cuisines such as italian.
An important aspect to consider is that most of the meat & dairy comes from local shepherds or farms that let their animal graze in the wild or open, bringing a high quality of meat & cheeses. Also the local farmers market is the best source for fruits & vegetables produced locally by farmers in a small scale production where the taste of vegetables is distinguished.
5 Shkodra dishes we selected
The most notorious one is carp from Shkodra lake or better known as “tave krapi” in Shkoder. You can find this dish in almost all the restaurants at the lake and also some in town. But my favorite remains my mom’s homemade version, sorry!
Since it is the “king” of the dishes we will list here the ingredients that make this dish special and a “must try” while you are in Shkoder.
“Tave Krapi” Ingredients: 1 whole carp, oil, onions, garlic, grape vinegar, dried plums, sugar, salt, pepper, fresh parsley, bay leaves and water cooked in the oven. Best served with cornbread!
Other known Shkodran dishes:
“Jahni” with dried plums
This dish is made of beef pieces and can be similar to “goulash”. The difference is the presence of dried plums and the fact that it is very liquid almost like a soup with meat. You definitely are going to use a spoon for this dish. You will not find this dish in a fancy restaurant but more likely in a small family run “mengjezore” or “gjelltore”.
A soup made of meat & rice (often meat refairs to parts of liver or kidneys) and topped with lemon juice and parsley at the end. A perfect starter during the winter season. This is another non fancy dish best to find in small restaurants.
“Pilaf me Ngjala” – Eels & Rise
Not as common as should be but a traditional dish that we are aware of. Eels are part of the Shkodran cuisine and I grew up eating them often, and the combination of rice & eels is such a great blend. This dish will be very difficult to find unless you specifically order it in advance. Restaurants by the lake will offer eels dishesh but not this version.
There is a great selection here but we brought a few:
Tespixhe, Haxhimakulle, Trilece & cassata you should definitely visit a “Pasticeri” and there is an abundance of those shops since the locals have a “big” sweet tooth. Just a warning everything is extra sweet!!!
But this in not all!
Apart from those that we mentioned above you definitely will find other albanian specialities in the restaurants. Those above are unique to Shkoder and something to keep an eye on or ask when you are in town. Often restaurant menu is different from a homemade cuisine since restaurants try to offer something different to locals, but from a traveller’s perspective, they still have to be open in adding more homemade dishes since their menu lack of homemade such as byreks, and I am not talking about the street byrek, that is a different version.
We would suggest you try to go also in “Mengjezore” (breakfast) places where you can find other albanian specialities, check out the blogpost about those here.
Best of all, if you receive an invitation for a lunch or dinner with a local family that will open a new world.
If you love to explore Shkodra lake and maybe stop in one of the restaurants for a “tave krapi” lunch. Check our Shkodra lake by bike activity.