Tickle your Taste Buds with these Traditional Maltese Dishes
Malta sits at the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, so the island enjoys one of the best cuisines in the world. There are a wealth of restaurants here boasting Mediterranean flavour. Maltese cuisine is unique because it reflects taste from a variety of different cultures, mostly influenced by Italian and British dishes. There are a lot of fish and pasta dishes, often to the delight of tourists. You should definitely try out these dishes at your local Maltese restaurant. They may just take you by surprise.
There is no escaping the classic pastizzeria kiosk in Malta as you will find them dotted all over the island. Pastizzi are the perfect snack to grab whilst you wait for that long overdue bus. Made with a flaky pastry filled with either ricotta cheese or mushy peas, pastizzi are exceptionally delicious! The pastizzi are often joined with a range of other snacks, such as Qassatat (another Maltese delicacy), Wudy (sausage rolls) and greasy pizza slices. The best pastizzeria on the island is, of course, Crystal Palace in Rabat. Why not grab a bite before you head off to Mdina? At 40 cents a pastizzi, you can’t go wrong!
Ftira biz-Zejt (Tuna Roll)
The perfect snack for your beach getaway. The ftira is loved by all Maltese. In 2018, the Maltese government submitted this type of bread to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list for its influence on Maltese cuisine. The ftira is Malta’s version of a sandwich, packed full of tuna, concentrated tomato puree, capers, olives, bean, salad and drizzled with oil. Have you noticed that Maltese dishes seem to be obsessed with oil? The filling of the ftira is a concoction of Mediterranean specialities. Ftiras are very easy to make for a picnic, or you’ll find them at most beach kiosks. If you’re looking for something a little more filling than pastizzi, then the ftira is the way to go.
This traditional stewed rabbit is known as the national dish of Malta. Every Maltese person prides themselves in making the perfect rabbit dish. Rabbit became a popular dish in the late 18th century. The Knights of St John had banned the hunting of rabbit and hares due to the island’s limited resources. When the ban became lifted, rabbit became popular as an affordable food. Fenek is usually cooked with tomato sauce and wine, and Maltese wine really adds that something special to the dish. The flavours are exceptional! Fenek is usually served with spaghetti or as a stew, alongside fries. The best place to find this tasty dish are the restaurants around Mgarr.
Lampuki (Dorado Fish)
This popular dish is only available during a specific time of the year. It is vastly available in September as seas around Malta remain warm and calm, making it the optimal breeding time for this famous fish. It even has a season named after it – Lampuki Season! You’ll find them all over Marsaxlokk market, and you will also hear their name being shouted out around all the villages in Malta. Street vendors are up in the morning selling this delicious fish, yelling “lampuki hajjien” (hajjien means ‘alive’ – they aren’t really, this is just to emphasise that it’s a fresh catch). People get up early in order to get their hands on some lampuki. This fish is cooked in a variety of ways - the traditional way you would cook most fish, or in a batter. However, there is also a popular lampuki pie, known as torta tal-lumpuki. The pie is filled with lampuki, spinach, olives and other famous Mediterranean ingredients. It sure is worth a try!
Ross il-Forn (Baked Rice)
This dish is absolutely delicious! The rice is cooked amongst minced beef, tomato sauce and layers of cheese, making it very similar to a lasagne. Although this dish might not stand out in the menu, it is definitely one to try next time you’re out dining. It’s the perfect meal to eat after a long day. Ross il-forn is full of carbs which will fill you up if you’ve been busy all day. It’s also probably one of the healthier hearty Maltese dishes out there.
This one is similar to ross il-forn but made from pasta instead of rice. Timpana is also packed with carbs. Penne pasta is mixed with a minced meat, tomato sauce and cheese filling, and covered in a pastry. It is essentially a bolognaise style macaroni cheese – in a pie! This dish is exceptionally delicious because of the combination of cheese and tomatoes. If you haven’t noticed already, Maltese people love their carbs. Unfortunately, the tastiest meals aren’t always the healthiest for us. As a famous Maltese dish, you’ll find timpana in the menu of most local Maltese restaurants. You’ll also find bite-sized versions at some pastizzerias too. Perfect to eat during your lunch break.
As you can see, Maltese food offers some very unique flavours. You can really tell the dishes have been influenced by different cultures. It makes trying the food all the more fun. Don’t be afraid of trying something new! You may just be surprised at how tasty it is. You’ll find these tasty dishes at most local Maltese restaurants.
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