Malta’s Culinary Delights
ES guest writer Faith has some expert advice on what and where to eat in the beautiful Mediterranean country of Malta. Start planning your vacation now…
Maltese cuisine has Arabic, Sicilian, French, Turkish, Greek and British influences, stemming from a history full of invasions and occupations, making it a culinary concoction just waiting to be discovered. Surrounded by the clear Mediterranean Sea, Malta has a wide range of fresh seafood to enjoy in a traditional Lampuki fish pie, or simply barbequed alfresco style. Rabbit stew is the national dish – traditional and hearty. Whether you prefer surf, turf, or something in between, Malta is definitely a culinary destination.
Fenek, or rabbit, is the food to try when you visit, whether served roasted, in a pie, with spaghetti or in its most traditional form – stewed in red wine and garlic. Fenkata celebrations are often held, where communal rabbit dishes are cooked. The celebrations started as a sign of rebellion against the Knights who hunted rabbits but stopped locals doing the same. If you want to know the best local restaurants to try fenek, the Guze Bistro in Valetta serves homemade ravioli stuffed with rabbit with tomato and basil salsa. Or for rabbit stew, head to Charlie’s Inn near Sliema; locals and tourists alike swear that this place serves the best rabbit dishes on the island! Once you’ve developed an impressive food baby, take a gentle stroll round Valletta harbour and enjoy soaking up the atmosphere.
Maltese Bread, known as Hobz Malti (above), is a crusty sourdough bread, crunchy on the outside yet soft and holey on the inside, which is sometimes compared to the Italian ciabatta. As well as being served with various dishes it is also a great snack when smothered in tomato pulp, drizzled with olive oil and topped with capers, salt and pepper. Visit Senglea waterfront for food markets every Sunday where local bakers sell freshly baked Hobz Malti.
Another Maltese staple and a traditional favourite is Kapunata – the Maltese version of ratatouille. A Mediterranean twist on a French classic, it should definitely be on your food wish list. It’s made from tomatoes, capers, aubergines and green peppers and often served alongside grilled fish or fresh bread. It is a delicious healthy dish, found in most restaurants, which can be served hot or cold. Take a short boat trip to Malta’s sister island, Gozo, and look for the Stone Crab restaurant in Xlendi Bay to enjoy an authentic Kapunata sitting right next to the sea.
Lampuki is Malta’s national fish, and when in season, between August and November, Lampuki Pie is a firm favourite. The fish is fried and deboned, then mixed with onions, capers, spinach, potatoes, tomatoes and olives, before being baked in a pastry shell. Check out the Villa Brasserie, in Saint Julian’s bay, which is well known for fantastic seafood dishes! This is also the perfect place to sit back and enjoy the view of the stunning bay and the nearby Bulluta church.
The Maltese love their pastries, mainly the pastizza (above) – a delicate flaky pastry filled with ricotta cheese or mushy peas. It’s often compared to the Greek staple filo, however it is crunchier and richer. Even better still, it is very cheap (around 30 cents each) and can be eaten at any time of the day. Take a trip to Mdina to find the Crystal Palace Pastizzerija which has arguably been serving the best Pastizzis on the island for over 100 years. Crystal Palace is so popular that it only shuts for two hours weekday nights and is open 24/7 on Friday and weekends.
A tasty fish soup made from tomatoes, fresh marjoram, rice and a lot of garlic, Aljotta probably isn’t the dish for you if you’re not a great garlic lover, but it’s irresistible if you’re a fan of the stuff. Plan a trip to La Capanna in St.George’s bay to sample their take on the Maltese classic. La Capanna is renowned for fresh seafood and shellfish dishes; the menu varies depending on the catch so you’ll never get bored of what’s on offer.
The island is small enough to explore all of the resorts mentioned and therefore try all kinds of famous Maltese food! Don’t miss out on the chance to discover Malta’s unique and diverse food scene.
Faith Norris writes for lowcostholidays.com and is based in London. She is a travel addict and cooking fanatic who enjoys trying a wide variety of cultural cuisines, from traditional curries in Sri Lanka to the freshest seafood in Corfu. Her favorite dish to cook is paella, and of course, it has to be washed down with a glass or two of dry white wine.