The residents of Gjirokastra are commonly described as frugal or stingy. This stereotype is the basis of many jokes about the people of Gjirokastra. However, Gjirokastrans are not offended by these jokes, and even enjoy them. They acknowledge that they like to save money, focus on their families, and invest in their houses. They remember the bad days and plan for the future. Not surprisingly, according to government statistics, the residents of Gjirokastra are the richest in Albania.
There are similar stereotypes and jokes about the region’s other residents. The residents of Tepelena are somehow stubborn, while residents of Permeti are considered very hard working and quiet.
However, hospitality is characteristic of all Albanians. If you are a guest in any house in Gjirokastra, Permet, Tepelene, or elsewhere in the region, you will be offered the best raki, wine, and food that they have.
Gjirokastra is famous for its food. The delicious cuisine results from combining high-quality, often organic ingredients, with talented cooks. The cuisine has distinct Ottoman roots, with its use of local oils, spices, herbs and especially sauces. Gjirokastrans can produce many variations of dishes using only a few basic ingredients. Typical dishes include pashaqofte, a soup with small meatballs; qifqi, rice balls cooked in a frying pan and mixed with herbs; shapkat, a mixture of sorrels and corn flour; sarma or japrak, stuffed grape leaves with rice and mint; and qahi, tiny spinach pies. Must-try local desserts include oshaf, made with sheep’s milk and cinnamon, and Turkish bakllava, prepared in the local way.
Vegetables are grown in Lunxhëri, and the muskmelons of Dropull are especially good. The cheese of Gjirokastra is another important local product. It is renowned throughout Albania and is generally considered the best. This cheese is made from goat, sheep or cow’s milk. The most common cheeses are djathë i bardhë, a soft white cheese that is similar to, but a bit harder than, feta, and kaçkavall, a hard, yellow variety.