With everything from delicious snacks to mouth-watering dishes and desserts, you’ll never go hungry on this sunny island
By Denise Rejec
Malta is not only synonymous with sea and sun. It’s also known for its tasty and varied Mediterranean cuisine combined with influences from Sicily, Italy, England, France, and North Africa. Maltese people take their food pretty seriously, which could be a good thing because you’ll find that the dishes presented to you at table will be rather plentiful. You’ll never go hungry in Malta!
Here’s what you can expect from an eating spree on the Maltese Islands. Enjoy your meal, or as the Maltese say: l-ikla t-tajba!
This is a Maltese staple. The French have their baguette, while the Maltese have this wonderful and very popular Maltese Bread or ‘Ħobż tal-Malti’. With its crusty, rounded exterior, and an irresistibly fluffy interior, you’ll never look elsewhere after trying this local bread.
What’s that? Literally translated from Maltese as ‘bread with oil’, this is a pimped up version of the good old Maltese loaf. You can have it in its most simplest form rubbed with olive oil and tomato paste, seasoned with salt and pepper, or you can dress it up with typical ingredients like tuna, capers, onions, ġbejniet, and sun-dried tomatoes. This snack is popular at lunch time, especially in summer, as it’s made in no time at all and tastes extra delicious after a swim in Malta’s salty sea. It also offers tourists a true taste of Malta in one single bite.
This is the flattened version of the Maltese loaf, and just like the latter, it comes in various sizes. You can fill this with whatever you like, though the Maltese love it with the same ingredients that are used for their ħobż biż-żejt, which by the way you may garnish with some fresh basil or mint. So yumm!
This Sicilian-influenced summer dish is made from fresh tomatoes, capers, aubergines and green peppers, and can be enjoyed by soaking up its juices using fresh and crusty Maltese bread.
When winter comes knocking at your door, you should try the Maltese minestra. Throw in some barley or small pasta; lentils; beans; vegetables such as carrots, marrows, kohlrabi, and pumpkin; potato; and allow them to cook in vegetable stock. Finally season and top with parsley, and indulge in this heartwarming soup that’s paired well with Maltese bread.
Any suitors out there? Okay, joking apart, this is another Maltese soup that can warm your humid winters. Even though ‘soppa tal-armla’ is simple (hence the name) with ingredients even a poor widow could afford to buy, it’s a tasty blend of potatoes and vegetables, enhanced with the flavour from ġbejniet and broad beans.
These are Malta’s most treasured and desired national fast food. They come in the form of round or diamond-shaped puff-pastry pockets filled with either ricotta or mushy peas. You can find these freshly baked in small shops all over the island called ‘pastizzerias’, or in some bars and cafes. Watch it though! Eating too many of these could compromise your waistline.
A popular and very filling baked pasta dish, timpana is usually available in pastizzerias or baked in Maltese homes, though you can also enjoy it in some Maltese restaurants serving local food. It makes for an extremely satisfying meal as it contains meat, vegetables, bolognese sauce, and cheese. All this is not enough for a hungry Maltese stomach, so it also comes with a golden-brown shortcrust or puff-pastry lid.
This is a dressed-down version of the timpana as it comes lidless (without the pastry top). It’s a baked macaroni and cheese dish with the addition of a red meat sauce, and a few hard-boiled eggs thrown in at times.
Fish has always been a huge hit in Malta. That’s what you’d expect from an island surrounded by seawater, right? You’ll find locally caught sea bass and sea bream, grouper, tuna, as well as other species. The most popular fish dish is undoubtedly the lampuka pie because it contains a healthy dose of meaty ‘lampuka’ (aka mahi-mahi or dolphinfish) cut up into chunks and mixed into a pungent tomato sauce containing olives and capers.
Served either as a stew or fried in white wine and garlic, this immensely popular platter can be had at one of the many traditional restaurants that are mainly clustered around the Mgarr area, though you can also come across them in other parts of Malta. The rabbit is typically accompanied by fries or roasted potatoes.
Known more commonly in Malta as ‘braġioli’, these sausage-like meat rolls are a delicious concoction of ground veal or beef mixed with bacon, garlic, onion, parsley, hard-boiled egg, and breadcrumbs, wrapped in beef topside, and slow-cooked in a rich, red wine sauce.
Talking about sausage-like meat rolls, we can’t ignore the ‘Zalzett Tal-Malti’. They pack an interesting flavour punch with their tasty Maltese pork (ground) infused with crushed coriander, peppercorns, garlic, parsley, and other spices. They’re also great on the barbecue.
On to the desserts, qagħaq tal-għasel or honey rings are pastry stuffed with blackstrap molasses, star anise, cloves, and all spice. They’re super comforting when eaten fresh and their interior is as soft as honey. So comforting, that even though they’re meant to be a Christmas treat, you’ll see many Maltese enjoying these at any time of year.
Now these make for another round of sinful indulgence, second to the pastizzi. These deep fried filo pastry and date rolls can be smelt from miles away, so it’s very hard to resist them. But you should give in to the temptation in this case. You’ll often see them being sold at mini kiosks around Malta particularly during village feasts. Make sure to enjoy them hot!
We’re going to end our list with a grande finale. True, you’ll have to hold on till Easter time before you can try these, but they’re definitely worth the wait. Figolli are flat cakes made from lemon-zest infused pastry with a juicy almond filling or marzipan, and decorated with brightly-coloured icing sugar or chocolate, and very often half a chocolate Easter egg. If you’re not too much of a sweet tooth, you can have a whale of a time simply admiring their interesting Easter-themed shapes. Or not?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our food tour of Malta. We can certainly bet that you’ve opened up a great appetite while reading this. Again, we wish you l-ikla t-tajba!