Friday, April 7, 2017

United Nations of Grub - Albania (Dukagjini Burek)

Country #2 of my world grub tour is Albania. In the process of conducting a little background research, I discovered that many Albanian immigrants to the United States eventually settled in the same neighborhoods as Italians (such as Bronx's Little Italy around Arthur Avenue, the subject of my next post), both as a consequence of geography (the two countries are separated only by a narrow swatch of the Adriatic Sea) and the fact that the most famous Albanian (Mother Teresa) was Roman Catholic (as are most Italians).  Even more interesting, at least in New York City, we have a lot of Albanians running Italian restaurants formerly owned by Italians without missing a beat.  So it was with this in mind when I came across what appears to be one of the best purveyors of Albanian-style burek in what was once a prominent Italian area in the Bronx.

Dukagjini Burek (758 Lydig Avenue) is located in a small storefront not too far from the Bronx Zoo and has just a few tables for customers wishing to eat in (most of their business is takeout).  Burek is a dish commonly found throughout the Balkans and former Ottoman Empire and takes on many forms.  In the Albanian version, sheets of phyllo dough are rolled out and then filled with a number of different ingredients (such as a salty, feta-like curd cheese, spinach, or ground beef/onions).  The burek at Dukagjini is placed in round pans and baked in a gas oven, then sold either whole or by the slice (not unlike pizza).  The older lady working behind the counter was pulling freshly-baked bureks out of the oven at a breakneck pace to keep up with lunchtime demand (she had a helper in back prepping the raw dough).

Since it was a Friday during Lent, I opted for meatless and ordered one slice of spinach and one slice of cheese (my slight preference was for the cheese-stuffed burek, but they were both good, not to mention amply-sized, a quarter of the whole pie each). Many of the regular customers (who appeared to be mostly Albanian blue collar workers) enjoyed a plain white yogurt drink along with their burek (my initial thought was that it was for dipping, but I saw no one do this), which is something I'll have to try on my next visit out (along with the meat slice)...

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