Traditional Maltese Food you Must Try While Visiting Malta.
The Republic of Malta, or just Malta, is an archipelago comprising three large islands, only 80 km (50 mi) south of Sicily, at the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. Mild winters, hot summers and the strategic location for trade have made the country an exceptional place to visit since ancient times.
People have inhabited Malta for 8,000 years, so it comes as no surprise that the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Spanish, French and British have occupied this warm country throughout history, that until the small country gained independence in 1964.
Imagine how varied and dynamic Maltese food is thanks to the influence of the major European civilisations of all times!
Over one and a half million people visit Malta every year for its impressive architecture, gorgeous views and warm people, but visitors come back for one reason: the food. Here is all you need to know about the traditional Maltese food you must try while visiting Malta.
From starters to desserts, this are the most popular dishes, all of them available in regional eateries and traditional restaurants.
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Traditional Maltese Starters
Maltese food is all about sharing, so it’s usual to have appetisers and starters on the centre. Spreads and one-biters are typical as they allow you to settle in and get the conversation going while you wait for your main course.
Green olives stuffed with tuna (Żebbuġ Mimli)
This appetiser might not sound like much, but Maltese stuffed olives are packed with flavor! People in Malta grow world-class olives; they’re amongst the best in the world. Stuffed with a tuna mixture, often including garlic, anchovies and breadcrumbs, and tossed in olive oil, these might just be the most flavorful stuffed olives you’ll ever taste.
Mashed tic beans (Bigilla)
The Maltese tic beans, locally known as djerba, are quite unique to the island. Smaller but similar in shape to broad beans, these dark beans are the soul of an attractive spread served as an appetiser: Bigilla.
Mashed tic beans with parsley, marjoram, peppers, garlic and olive oil make a rich and hearty paste that’s better enjoyed over a slice of artisan bread or the Maltese water crackers, galletti.
White beans with garlic and parsley (Fażola bajda bit-tewmu t-tursin)
The secret behind this lovely combination of local Maltese white beans, herbs, garlic and olive oil is the quality of the ingredients. You know that your beans will end up great when everything is sourced from the same place, like in Malta.
Although this cold dish could be considered a salad, it’s much more than that; it’s filling, satisfying and evocative of the distinctive flavors of the island.
Maltese fish soup (Aljotta)
This recipe became fashionable after being a staple Catholic lent preparation. It is now available all year round and can be considered a classic Maltese dish as prominent as the rabbit stew.
The main ingredient is fish, and the most traditional recipes call for a whole small fish to get the most intense Mediterranean flavor. Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and lime juice, give life to this hearty soup, and herbs, including mint and bay leaf, add refreshing aromatics.
Traditional Main Courses from Malta – Maltese Food
The influence of the Mediterranean Sea permeates the Maltese cuisine deeply, and fresh fish abound. Still, the Maltese love their meat and have a vast repertoire of meat dishes, including its famous rabbit stew.
Rabbit Stew (Stuffat tal-fenek)
Without a doubt, the most popular Maltese dish is the rabbit stew or stuffat tal-fenek. Locals love it, and no trip to Malta is complete without trying it.
Maltese classic ingredients like tomatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes and carrots make the base of this dish. The rabbit is often marinated in wine and bay leaves, and olive is used abundantly.
The result is flavorful, fork-tender meat with layered flavors where every herb and vegetable play a part — it’s Malta on a plate.
Beef olives (Braġjoli)
This rustic meat dish is hearty and intensely flavoured, although you’ll be surprised to know there are no olives in this recipe. The name ‘beef olives’ comes from the tradition of using the term ‘olive’ for meat roulades.
Cooks stuff these thin beef filets with a mixture of breadcrumbs, bacon, onions, carrots and garlic, with added flavor from bay leaves and parsley. The Braġjoli is then stewed to integrate all the flavors and get a decadent soft texture.
Dolphinfish Pie (Torta tal-Lampuki)
This savoy puff pastry relies on a very special ingredient, the Lampuki, an abundant fish that loves spending time around Malta’s coasts. It’s known elsewhere as dorado, dolphinfish, or mahi-mahi.
Lampuki’s lean meat is elevated to new heights with the addition of tomatoes, garlic, capers, and often fresh mint for a pie filling that’s a picture-perfect example of Maltese seafood dishes.
Vegetarian Potato and Cheese Pastry (Ftira)
Ftira is a ring-shaped fried bread filled or topped with anything from honey to sardines and cheese.
Every Maltese table features rustic, artisan bread that complement’s the country’s cuisine beautifully, but ftira can be a main course on its own right. From a wide variety of fillings, cheese and potato are widespread, particularly for its tasty, yet light profile suitable for the increasing number of vegetarians visiting the country.
The memories you make around Maltese desserts during your trip to Malta will be hard to forget. With strong Sicilian influences, puff pastries, biscuits, and cakes, most flavoured with almonds, dates and citrus fruit, add to Malta’s complex culinary personality.
Pinenut Sponge Cake (Prinjolata)
What makes this colourful cake so special is the use of pine nuts. The cake is a special treat baked for the Maltese Carnival, celebrated since the 5th century, and Prinjolate is as colourful as carnivals get.
Think of a lemon and almond-scented sponge cake filled with a pine nut and cherry-infused cream filling. The topping is without a doubt festive and flashy; the cake is topped with cherries and almond flakes, all drizzled with chocolate.
Date stuffed Pastries (Imqaret)
These two biters might look simple, but they’re tender and naturally sweet. Fried pastries filled with date paste carry the quintessential flavors of the Mediterranean — dates are common around the region thanks to the Arab influence.
Dates, citrus juice, cinnamon, cloves and a kiss of anise liqueur makes each bite of these fluffy pillows one you won’t forget.
We’re sure you know and love these crispy tubes of dough filled with creamy ricotta by their Sicilian name, Cannoli, but the dessert is as Maltese as it’s Sicilian.
These fried ‘horns’ are more complex than you think; they’re made with eggs, flour, cinnamon and sugar, but also sweet wine for a unique Maltese treat. The filling, on the other hand, is plain and delicious sweetened ricotta, and Malta makes excellent fresh cheese.
Bones of the Dead Cookies (Għadam tal-Mejtin)
These fun almond biscuits have a peculiar shape; they’re hand-molded to resemble bones. A classic pastry to commemorate the All Saints Day in November, these biscuits have all the flavor and texture of the local almonds and the scents of orange and lime zest. Plain or covered in chocolate, these treats show the festive side of Malta, a pretty tasty side of Malta, that is. Malta awaits with open arms
Food in Malta is reason enough to visit, but there’s so much more to experience in the country that you’ll never want to leave. With a proper glass of wine or a cold bottle of local Ċiskbeer, your meals in Malta will be unforgettable, especially if shared with your loved ones.
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