Maltese Cuisine at Its Finest: 17 Must-Try Maltese Meals

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Maltese cuisine reflects the country’s history and diverse culinary influences. This little island republic, positioned between Sicily and North Africa along vital trade routes in the Mediterranean Sea, has played home to a number of merchants and conquerors. Each of them had an indelible imprint on the food.

Maltese cuisine is significantly influenced by Italian, Spanish, French, British, Arabic, and other Mediterranean cuisines. Sicily contributed Italian-Arab influences, while the Knights of St. John brought items and culinary expertise from France, Italy, and Spain throughout their 200-year tenure.

Curiously, the Knights also brought other New World foods, the most noteworthy of which being chocolate. Malta is regarded as one of the first nations in Europe to consume chocolate (after Spain). Yet, consuming hot chocolate was formerly restricted to the upper crust.

For over 5,000 years, Malta has been cultivating olive trees and producing some of the world’s best olive oil. Other necessary foodstuffs include tomatoes, oranges, and honey. Maltese blood oranges play an important role in the French sauce Maltaise. Many people say that Maltese wild thyme honey is the greatest in the Mediterranean.

Best Maltese Cuisine

Pastizzi

Pastizzi, a savory flaky pastry often filled with ricotta cheese or mushy peas, is the ideal way to begin our Maltese culinary guide. It is a Maltese national food that may be found across the country in pastizzi shops, caf├ęs, taverns, and restaurants.

It’s available in New York, Melbourne, and even Tokyo. Formerly solely accessible at home, the product has been manufactured commercially since the 1960s. Takeaway restaurants are often small and may be found near churches.

This Maltese street food has a diamond or circular form. Stretching and rolling a phyllo-like pastry with layers of butter results in a flaky crust.

Pastizzi is so common in Malta that it has inspired a number of idioms and phrases. It may refer to the female sexual organ or serve as a metaphor for a softie. The Maltese idiom jinbiegu ball-pastizzi refers to anything in great demand and is the Maltese equivalent of the English phrase selling like hot cakes.

It is crucial to distinguish Maltese pastizzi from the Italian baked turnover of the same name, which is more like to a calzone.

Malta Bread

Maltese bread is one of the things that Maltese expats miss when they return home. This bread tastes nothing like a standard loaf of sliced white bread from the store, with a firm and crispy crust on the outside and soft and fluffy white bread on the inside.

This enormous (or smaller, since they come in different sizes) round loaf of bread is normally bought whole or sliced, and it is sometimes the main carbohydrate of a meal and other times the mop that helps you reach the last parts of that thick, wonderful Maltese stew you can’t get enough of. It comes with most meals that allow for wiping at the table and is usually supplied as an accompaniment to your meal at local restaurants.

bi-ejt ob bi-ejt

Locals often consume bread in the shape of ob bi-ejt, which is the most prevalent technique of serving it as Maltese cuisine.

Sliced Maltese bread with extra virgin olive oil, tomato paste, and a pinch of salt and pepper is an excellent summer snack, generally topped with delicacies like tuna and capers.

The Ftira’s

Nevertheless, ob tal-Malti is not the only kind of Maltese bread available. The ftira, like a standard loaf of Maltese bread, is a flat-baked, portion-sized bread (though larger variants are also available).

This popular Maltese lunch option incorporates many local delicacies and is tailored to your tastes.

isk

The most popular (locally made) beer is isk, a simple, light drink popular with international beer fans. While it is not the smoothest beer, it has a moderate taste that is very refreshing on a hot day.

Despite the fact that there are various international brands available on the island, most tourists choose to drink the local brew. Apart from the basic, there are low-carb (Cisk Excel), fruity flavored (Chill Lemon and Chill Berry), and a few more flavors to choose from. The same firm also produces several ales (Farsons).

Meat from Rabbit

Traditionally consumed. In Malta, rabbit is one of the most popular meals; nevertheless, horse meat is extremely common in communities. On Sundays, rabbit is most typically consumed.

There is no traditional way to prepare rabbit, however it is often marinated in red wine. Rabbit meals were traditionally prepared underground by burying them. This is an accurate picture of Maltese cuisine.

Aljotta

Aljotta is a sort of fish soup that is popular in Malta. It is a lemony, garlicky soup that is especially popular during Lent, when meat is forbidden.

This delectable Maltese fish soup is inspired by French bouillabaisse and includes mint, lemon, and rice. To get the maximum flavor out of tiny fish (like rockfish), cook them entire, including the head, tail, and fins.

Garlic, fried onions, tomatoes, mint, bay leaves, and rice are blended with the fish before it is served with parsley and lemon juice. When done properly, aljotta is one of the most exquisite soups in Maltese cuisine.

Bigilla

Bigilla is a typical Maltese dish consisting almost entirely of mashed tic beans. It’s a bean that looks like wide beans but is smaller, darker, and has a tougher skin. Locals name it ful ta irba.

Bigilla recipes vary, but they commonly contain tic beans, olive oil, garlic, herbs, and spices. Additional ingredients, like as pepper, capers, and lemon juice, may be added to taste.

Normally, the beans are soaked in water for at least 24 hours before cooking. Bigilla is then traditionally served as a dip or spread with bread or Maltese crackers such as Galletti.

il-forn Imqarrun

Imqarrun il-forn is ideal for those who appreciate baked pasta meals. Like many Maltese meals, it is a well-known staple with origins in Italian cuisine.

Imqarrun il-forn is a baked pasta dish from Malta prepared with tubular pasta like penne or rigatoni. A rich meat-and-tomato-based sauce seasoned with garlic, cumin, paprika, oregano, bay leaves, thyme, rosemary, and curry coats the spaghetti. To increase the richness of the combination, eggs are usually added.

Imqarrun il-forn is served for lunch or supper in every Maltese home. The dish is first baked in the oven until it develops a wonderful, crispy crust on top.

tal-Fenek stuffing (Maltese Rabbit Stew)

Fenkata is a Maltese community feast consisting of variably cooked rabbits. Fenek moqli (fried rabbit with garlic) and spaghetti tal-fenek are two popular Maltese rabbit dishes (spaghetti with rabbit sauce). Even so, Stuffat tal-fenek, or rabbit stew, has to be the best.

Rabbit has a long history in Malta, going back to the Knights of St. John in the mid-16th century. The rabbit was the protein of choice for low-income households due to its cheap cost and availability of access.

Fenkata is not as prevalent as it once was, yet it has a special place in Maltese food and culture. Rabbit stew and other fenkata meals are usually reserved for special occasions and family gatherings to mark important life milestones.

Bragioli

Bragioli refers to a kind of Maltese beef roll. It’s made with flattened beef sirloin wrapped around a filling of bacon, ground beef, hard-boiled egg, breadcrumbs, spices, and seasonings.

The beef buns are kept together with toothpicks and simmered in red wine before being served with mashed potatoes and peas.

Bragioli is often known as beef olives, despite the fact that it includes no olives. Instead, it derives its name from the fact that when cooked, it is said to resemble stuffed olives.

tal-Malti, Zalzett

Who doesn’t like a good sausage? The Maltese sausage Zalzett tal-Malti is made with fatty minced pork, garlic, herbs, pepper, and sea salt. It is typically boiled before being fried since it is garlicky and salty.

It’s one of three delicacies that residents miss the most when they leave, along with ftira and gbejniet (Maltese goat cheese).

Malti Platt

Platt malti is a grouping of little Maltese meals or appetizers, rather than an one dish. Consider it the Maltese version of Spanish tapas, Italian antipasto, or Turkish meze.

Platt malti, which translates as Maltese plate, is provided at all times at Maltese restaurants. It is often served as an appetizer, although bigger servings may also be served as a main meal.

Platt malti is often made with zalzett tal-malti, gbejniet, sun-dried tomatoes, and bigilla, as well as Galletti.

Like tapas or pintxos, platt malti is more than simply a dish of food. It is a social event and an important part of Maltese culture and cuisine.

tal-Irkotta Kannoli

As previously said, Sicilian food has had a significant effect on Maltese cuisine. Kannoli tal-irkotta is an excellent illustration of this.

It’s a Maltese version of the cannolo, a traditional Italian delicacy made of fried pastry shells filled with a sweet and creamy ricotta filling.

Kannoli is a delicious and often enjoyed dessert in Malta. Sadly, this is one of those contentious recipes where everyone claims to know who produces the greatest version.

Kwareimal

Malta is mostly a Catholic nation. As a result, some of its traditional dishes are tied to the Catholic liturgical calendar and are only produced at certain times of the year. Kwareimal is one of these dishes.

Kwareimal is a traditional Maltese Lenten cookie. Its name is derived from the Italian term Quaresima, which signifies lent. It is often prepared with flour, almonds, orange zest, cocoa powder, spices, and sugar, but no eggs or dairy products are used.

Catholics who abstain from sugar during Lent may wonder why it is used in a traditional Lenten meal such as kwareimal.

This is because the kwareimal recipe was devised when sugar was still considered a spice. People didn’t have to give it up for Lent back then.

ta l-Gasel Qagaq

Christmas is a happy time in and of itself, but it gets much more so when you have scrumptious Christmas cookies like qagaq ta l-gasel to look forward to in Malta.

Qagaq ta l-gasel is a traditional Maltese pastry prepared with treacle as the main ingredient. The pastries are filled with black treacle, orange zest, semolina, spices, chocolate, and sugar before being rolled into rings and baked.

Qagaq ta l-gasel roughly translates as honey ring, however honey is seldom used in current pastry renditions.

While originally a Christmas pastry in Malta, qagaq ta l-gasel is now eaten all year round, sometimes with coffee, tea, or even a glass of wine after dinner.

Panettone

Panettone, like kannoli, is an outstanding example of the Italian culinary influence on Maltese cuisine. Panettone, a kind of Milanese Christmas sweet bread, has become a worldwide Christmas tradition, including in Malta.

Panettone is notable for its large size and soaring dome-like form. It’s packed with dried fruits, raisins, and candied citrus peels and prepared with a sourdough-like acidic cured dough.

Panettone is also served in vertically cut wedges with hot drinks or sweet wines. But, despite how popular panettone has become as a Christmas custom in Malta, it seems to have detractors.

Last Thoughts on Maltese Cuisine

Despite the fact that Malta is an island nation, the ingredients utilized in Maltese cuisine are diverse. Milk, beef, and seafood are used to make a variety of recipes. As a consequence, if you visit this nation, you will have a variety of cuisine alternatives.

Maltese people have access to a variety of meals due to the country’s geographical position. When you try Maltese cuisine, you will be surprised to realize that each dish has its own peculiar flavor that is both delicious and curiously interesting.

Visiting other European countries? See our other guides:

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