The foods prepared and served in Nikaj-Mertur RNP are the traditional dishes of the areas that have been passed down over centuries. Travelers who want to stray from modern cuisine have an opportunity to turn back the dials of time and try dishes that are both delicious and authentic in Nikaj-Mertur.
Nikaj-Mertur offers locally-grown organic foods, and the agricultural products of the region are renowned throughout Albania. Story has it that the Ottoman Sultans would order their honey, meats, and wool from Nikaj-Mertur because they knew that the bees and livestock were nourished with the rich and varying vegetation of the local mountains.
Local dairy-based favorites for both locals and travelers include honey, yogurt, milk, butter, maza, dhalla, and the various types of native cheeses.
Meat is the main staple of the sofra, the traditional meal laid out on a common table. You will find that the restaurants and guesthouses of Nikaj-Mertur all serve fresh lamp, sheep, goat, beef, and pork. This readily available fresh meat is a reflection of the rich livestock present in Nikaj-Mertur. Wild game meats like rabbit and boar are a local delicacy and come served in a dish called çervish.
The most unique dish that visitors will encounter is maza, which is the cream of recently boiled milk. It can come in various shapes and sizes and can be mixed with local stables like goat cheese, peppers, eggs, or honey. Strawberry milk, or qumështi me dredhëza, is also a must-try product for visitors.
Seasonal fruits and dry fruits, some of which are foraged in the wild, are also a special part of the Nikaj-Mertur cuisine.
Every family also has their own version of traditional alcoholic drinks like grape raki, plum raki, mulberry raki, cranberry raki, wine, and hardalli.
Food and Drink
Honey, or mjalt. The rich flora present in Nikaj-Mertur makes the local honey quite extraordinary and varied. The most coveted type in the market is chestnut honey, which is a bit spicy upon tasting and carries many medicinal properties.
Cheese, or djath. Many types of cheese are consumed in Nikaj-Mertur. Usually they are made using a mixture of sheep, goat, and cow milk. A natural rennet in use to bind the milk into cheese.
Kumshti is a drink prepared with the left-over whey from the cheesemaking process. The whey is boiled slowly over an open fire until curd is formed and removed. Once cooled down, the remaining liquid is mixed with a some of the previous batch of kumshti and left to ferment. This drink has a tart flavor and is very refreshing on hot days.
Chestnut flour, or miell gështenje, is produced by thoroughly peeling and grinding fully ripe, dried chestnuts.
Raki is an unsweetened alcoholic drink most often derived from grapes, but also from cranberries, mulberries, or plums.
Hardallia is usually prepared with wild apples or pears and is presently very hard to find since locals do not prepare it often.
Flia. A famous dish of the Highland region that consists of multiple crepe-like layers made from wheat or chestnut flour. The flour is made into a thin dough, which then divided into 10 to 15 layers that are cooked very slowly over an open fire. The dish is cut into small square slices and is served with butter, honey, and sour cream.
Pasterma me pershesh. Dried meat that is left in cold water for 2 hours to remove its excess salt, is then sliced and boiled in hot water. Once done boiling, the liquid is mixed with corn bread, creating a mushy meal similar to grits. Cooked beans or boiled greens can also be added to the pasterma and served along with the dried meat.