The Country Food Similarity Index is a statistically-based attempt to quantify how similar the food in one country is relative to another. By comparing the weight of raw food ingredients used in each country, a score is assigned that reflects the degree of similarity between the respective countries. The methodology is exactly the same for each country studied.
The Most Similar Cuisines to Albanian Food
Albanian cuisine boasts a rich and diverse blend of European and Middle Eastern influences. With the exception of Iran, the countries with the most similar food were all once controlled by the Ottoman Empire. In addition, these five nations are also quite mountainous. Wheat is the most commonly eaten starch in these countries, while the tomato has become an essential part of their diets.
- Azerbaijan‘s cuisine also has Slavic and Middle Eastern influences, since it was once part of the Soviet Union, but borders Turkey and Iran. Lamb and beef are relatively popular meats in these countries. One of the most notable shared dishes is “Pilaf,” a flavorful rice dish often paired with tender lamb, dried fruits, and an array of aromatic spices like saffron and cinnamon. Azerbaijani cuisine also features “Dolma,” grape leaves or vegetables stuffed with rice and minced meat, akin to the Albanian “Japrak.”
- Turkey and Albania both border the Mediterranean . The Ottoman Empire ruled over Albania for centuries. Nowadays, Turkish cuisine can be seen in many Albanian dishes, including burek (filled pastries), sarma (stuffed vegetables), and ayran (yogurt-based drink). However, the typical Albanian diet features more fruit, especially grapes, apples, and watermelons.
- Armenia and Albania also have similar culinary traditions. Both countries enjoy grilled or slow-cooked meat dishes, like the Armenian Shish Kebab and the Albanian Qebapa. Both cuisines feature dishes where vegetables like peppers, tomatoes, and grape leaves are stuffed with a mixture of rice, minced meat, herbs, and spices. Moreover, the use of various herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, and mint, is a common thread in their cuisines.
- Iran is located to the southeast of Turkey. Iranian cuisine is characterized by its vibrant flavors and the abundant use of fresh herbs and spices. Wheat and tomatoes are the two most commonly used ingredients in these countries. “Kabab Koobideh,” an Iranian dish made of ground meat seasoned with onions and spices, is comparable to Albania’s “Qofte.” However, rice is more commonly eaten in Iran than in Albania.
- North Macedonia is another country with many ethnic Albanians. They share several culinary similarities as a result. Both countries enjoy bean stews, called “Tavče Gravče,” in Macedonia and “Fasule” in Albania. Both cuisines rely on fresh vegetables, cheeses, and dairy products to add depth to their meals. Furthermore, yogurt is commonly used as a side dish.
The Least Similar Cuisines to Albanian Food
The countries with the least similar food to Albania are all in tropical regions, so their climates are typically much hotter and wetter. Four of the five are located in Africa. These nations are not as developed as Albania. Furthermore, their diets rely far more on the consumption of cereal grains and starchy roots.
- Democratic Republic of Congo is a former Belgian colony located in the middle of Africa. Cassava is the dominant staple food in the country. The most commonly eaten meat in Congo is freshwater fish, whereas chicken and beef are more popular proteins in Albania. Furthermore, the country’s diet has relatively little meat in it.
- Central African Republic is a former French colony located to the north of Congo. The majority of the country’s diet is based on cassava and yams. Bananas and plantains are also an extremely common source of food in the country. In addition, comparatively little chicken is consumed in Central African Republic.
- Cambodia is the only country in Asia on this list. The Cambodian diet is heavily based in rice and cassava, while relatively little bread, tomatoes, and potatoes are consumed there. Another difference is that freshwater fish are more commonly eaten in Cambodia than in Albania.
- Chad is yet another former French colony in Africa on this list. Although, like Albania, it is mostly Muslim, their cuisines have little in common. Sorghum and millet are the two most commonly consumed grains there. These crops are well adapted to the Sahel’s harsh climate. Peanuts and sesame seeds are also common parts of the country’s cuisine.
- South Sudan is located to the east of Central African Republic. It is another country where cassava is the staple food, however the country eats its share of sorghum as well. Porridge is one of the most popular dishes in the country. However, they are not completely different. Both Albania and South Sudan eat a significant amount of beef.
Albania’s Most Common Food Ingredients
Protein: Chicken, Beef
Fruit: Grape, Watermelon
Vegetable: Tomato, Onion
Starch: Wheat, Potato
Primarily based on 2020 data from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.