I sat down one sunny morning in Tirana, to talk to one of Albania’s most well known, well respected, and sought after chefs. Bledar Kola, the award winning culinary genius behind “Mullixhiu” is now, quite literally taking his talent to the streets of Tirana.
Sita, a food truck nestled behind Skanderbeg Square is bringing the delights of the Albanian kitchen, to the masses- serving up a great selection of street food all with his unmistakable high-quality twist.
Having built up a solid reputation over years of hard work, Kola is almost single-handedly bringing the delicate flavours of the Albanian kitchen to the international gourmet table. By combining the beauty of locally sourced, organic, and seasonal products with a winning combination of tradition and contemporary charm, his dishes are devoured by some of the world’s leading critics- from Ireland to Hungary, and everywhere in between.
Sita offers a range of dishes from sandwiches and salad to pasta and curious Albanian treats- all made by them and from scratch. The flour is milled on-site at Mullixhiu, the pasta is created by hand, and every sauce, condiment, filling, and accompaniment is made under the watchful eye of the master chef.
Tantalise your tastebuds with fergese (ricotta cooked with peppers and veal), vegetable qofte (made with shredded zucchini), or gorge on petka (Albanian pasta) swimming in seasonal sauces and flavours. Wash it all down with freshly squeezed orange juice and you are ready to continue your day feeling fulfilled and full up but in an unmistakably wonderful way.
The truck itself is decked out with flowers and shrubs, and brightly painted chairs and tables allow for a selection of patrons to sit and devour their delicacies in comfort.
Sita is single-use plastic free, a decision taken after Kola realised just how much plastic a truck of this type uses on a daily basis.
“Plastic straws, cups, lids, cutlery- I had never really considered these things before Sita, but now I am adamant I don’t want to use them”.
Wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with “PlastIK” (a play on the Albanian word ‘plastik’ and ‘ik’ meaning ‘out’) he explains that when he made the switch to paper cups, paper straws and wooden cutlery, his sales dropped by 30% because his clients didn’t like the feel of the eco-products. But he says that this doesn’t deter him and that it is more important to be sustainable and responsible, than to keep everyone happy.
It is refreshing to find someone who believes in their principles more than profit and his plan to not only educate adults, but to go and give talks and demos in schools and kindergartens is something that is long overdue. He explains that whilst he knows it is impossible to change the world just through banning plastic straws, he hopes that these little changes will being infiltrate the subconscious of society, resulting in a shift in the way that we consume.
The thing that strikes me most about Bledar and his enterprises is the passion with which he does things. When he talks about food, his country, or the fresh ingredients that go into every dish, you can feel the excitement in his voice. This is someone that cooks and educates because they feel passionately about the topic, not just for status or praise.
So what is next for Kola? There is an Albanian cookery book in the works that will first be published in Germany, before hopefully being translated into English. He is also travelling far and wide, cooking for some of the world’s most discerning and curious palettes. His aim seems to be to promote the wonders of this little known (outside of the country) kitchen, and to shake away some of the negative preconceptions that people have about Albania.
That is something I can definitely get behind.
For me, Sita has it all- amazing food, a sustainable and conscious concept, plastic free, and unashamedly Albanian- if you are visiting Tirana and looking for a taste of authenticity on the go, this has to be number one on your list.Follow The Balkanista!