Arnavut Ciğeri (Albanian Liver) is one of the most beloved meze variety of Turkish cuisine that you can simply find it almost at any kebab restaurant in Turkey. It is made with calf liver and goes very well with all kebab types. At first, it may look like just a plain fried liver to you; however, it is way more than that.
It is usually served cold in most restaurants as a “cold meze” but if you are cooking it yourself, you can eat it hot also. It is just a preference. I myself love to eat it hot. Either way, Arnavut Ciğeri is a very delicious meze variety.
Most people think that the Arnavut Ciğeri (Albanian Liver) is inherited from Albanians who were living in Edirne city during the Ottoman Empire period and it is a classic Albanian dish; however, it is not. Yes, the dish is related to the Albanians who were living in Edirne city and Istanbul but it is not like the way we thought.
The origins of the Arnavut Ciğeri (Albanian Liver) tie back to the Albanians who migrated to the Edirne city during the Balkan wars. During those Balkan wars times; some of the Albanian immigrants were mobile sellers of the raw meat cuts both in Edirne city and Istanbul. At that time selling food, and mobile was the only income source for most of the immigrants because there were no stable jobs exist.
According to the Ottoman period’s famous traveler and explorer Evliya Çelebi; the Albanians, who were living in Istanbul during the 15th century, were great butchers and also good at livestock businesses both in the Edirne city and Istanbul.
After all those centuries passed; when the Balkan wars started in 1912, the Albanian immigrants had chosen what their ancestors’ are good at and started to sell meat cuts mobile in Edirne city and Istanbul to earn their day.
So, as the liver was identified with the Albanian meat sellers during the Balkan wars time, this delicious dish has been started to named Arnavut Ciğeri. This is the story behind this delicious dish. By the way, if you are a liver dish lover, you may also like Liver Shish Kebab too.
The general rule of thumb for Arnavut Ciğeri is to garnish with raw red onions. But, if you don’t remove the bitterness of raw red onion, it will dominate the taste and it will ruin everything. With this very technique that I mention below, you will not get that strong raw red onion taste.
Just before adding the sliced raw red onions to the side of the dish; coat the sliced red onions with a generous pinch of salt in a small bowl, and wait for a couple of minutes. Then rub the salt with the onions and then rinse and drain the onion slices well. We don’t want the onion slices to be wet.
This is the best and fastest way of removing the strong flavor of raw red onion. However; if you are a fan of raw onion taste, you can skip this step and jump on this taste bomb directly.
We have two main varieties of this magnificent taste. One is called obviously Arnavut Ciğeri (Albanian Liver) and the other one is called Yaprak Ciğer (Leaf Liver). There is only two difference between these two.
The first difference between these two is the cutting style of the liver. At the Arnavut Ciğeri (Albanian Liver), the liver is cut into 2-3cm cubes (0.7 inches to 1.20 inches). On the other hand, at the Yaprak Ciğer (Leaf Liver), the liver is cut into very thin slices. Usually, the slices are not thicker than 0.5cm (0.2 inches). This is why it is called Yaprak Ciğer (Leaf Liver).
The second difference is that if you like juicy fried liver, Arnavut Ciğeri (Albanian Liver) will be your best bet. However; if you like non-juicy more crisp-fired liver, then your best option will be Yaprak Ciger (Leaf Liver). As the liver is cut that much thin, it cooks faster and becomes crisper.
How to prepare it?
If you want to eat delicious Arnavut Ciğeri (Albanian Liver) and/or Yaprak Ciğeri (Leaf Liver), there are a few important subjects that need to be considered.
First, always make your Arnavut Ciğeri from calf liver (beef liver), not lamb liver. It is because the lamb liver is very soft and the taste is not as good as calf liver. If you ever try to make this with lamb liver, you will see that the liver spreads to many pieces because of its soft structure. On the other hand, calf liver holds its shape well during cooking and tastes way better. I tried both livers because of the curiosity and I wish I couldn’t try the lamb liver. It was a total waste.
Second, always buy fresh liver. Not two days or three days old. It needs to be fresh, simple is that. When it comes to how to understand a fresh liver that the fresh liver always shines but the two or more days old liver always looks matte color. If it is not fresh, just don’t buy it and learn when the next calf liver delivery date is.
Third, always ask your butcher if the membrane of the liver has been removed or not. If not, tell him/her to remove it for you.
Arnavut Ciğeri (Albanian Liver)
- 600 gram Calf Liver membrane removed
- 6 tbsp All purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Baking Powder
- 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Powder
- 200 ml Sunflower Oil (Vegetable Oil)
Red Onion Garnishing
- 1 Red Onion Slice cut
- 1 teaspoon Sumac
- 1 teaspoon Salt
Place the onion slices and salt into a small bowl and rub them well to remove the raw red onion's bitterness. Then wash the onion slices and drain them well. Then add the sumac and mix it with red onion slices well and then set aside for garnishing.
Wash and drain the liver well. Then cut the liver into 2cm (0.8 inches) cubes and put it in a bowl.
In a separate bowl; mix the all-purpose flour, baking powder, and salt.
Place the liver cubes into the all-purpose flour mix and make sure all mix well. Then, take out the liver cubes from the bowl and place them in a strainer to remove the excess flour mix.
Place the sunflower oil in a deep frying pan and bring the heat to a medium level. To make sure the sunflower oil is hot enough for frying, just toss a pinch of flour into the frying pan to see if it is sizzling or not. If it is sizzling then it means it is ready for frying.
Place the liver cubes in the frying pan and add the red pepper powder and then saute for about 2-3 minutes. Liver cubes cook very fast so do not cook them for more than 3 minutes.
Put a paper towel on a plate and then take out the liver cubes from the frying pan with a strainer scoop to remove the excess oil.
Place the liver cubes on a serving plate.
Garnish with the red onion and sumac mixture.