Maltese food is very rustic in character and full of flavour. Being only 93 kilometres from Sicily and close to North Africa, our food can't help being influenced by these countries.
It is typically Mediterranean in its colouring and flavours and relies on the use of local ingredients. Olives, garlic, tomatoes, celery and capers are all to be found in plentiful supply and have made their way into a variety of local dishes. Rabbit and fish are also staples of the local diet and are served in soups and pasta dishes or fried, stewed or baked as a main course. Meals are normally accompanied by freshly-made Maltese bread and are best enjoyed with the accompaniment of local wine.
Snacks and Starters
Holiday-makers and English Language Students alike must sample Maltese bread (ħobża) smeared with good olive oil or with bigilla (broad bean paté). We also have wonderful crackers called galletti, which are lovely eaten with local goats’ cheese (ġbejniet). Another delicious snack are pastizzi (ricotta cheese or pea filling in pastry), which can be purchased for a few cents from the many Pastizzerias in every village.
In summer every visitor must try the mouth-watering ħobż biż-żejt which is thick Maltese bread rubbed with juicy red tomatoes, topped with mint and a little onion, and then dunked in green olive oil, although there are many variations to this standard recipe.
Nothing beats the smell of freshly baked, warm Maltese bread (ħobż tal-Malti), straight out of the wooden oven! It is a crusty sourdough bread which was originally made in Qormi, the capital of bread making in Malta.
The traditional way to eat Ħobż tal-Malti is with rubbed tomatoes or a tomato paste as a spread, drizzled with olive oil and filled with a choice or mix of tuna, olives, capers, onion, bigilla and ġbejna. Give it a try!
Maltese Olive Oil - rated by Jamie Oliver as the best in the world!
The reason behind the great taste of Maltese olive oil lies here: you are never really far from the coast in Malta, this means the briny air from the deep waters of the surrounding Mediterranean blows its saltiness into all produce grown here. This gives everything a satisfying taste in its raw state – including the olives and the grapes and therefore the oil and the wine. But the small island also means transportation times are kept to an absolute minimum; ‘tree to press’ is a matter of hours or even minutes. Freshness is key.
Read more on Jamie Oliver's blog about Maltese Olive Oil.
Ġbejniet (singular ġbejna) are small, round cheeselets made from sheep or goat milk. Most of the sheep's milk produced in Malta is used to make this type of cheese. Their intense flavour makes them ideal for traditional foods such as ravioli and pie stuffing, for grating over your favourite hot dishes, sliced in salads or as a component in cheese platters. Ġbejna tal-Bżar, or Pepper Cheese, adds a spicy taste to this delicious local dairy product.
A wonderful hearty Maltese soup, which originated from Italy, is golden minestra. Using a mixture of vegetables including carrots, onions, tomatoes, marrows, courgettes, pasta and stock, it is a must for a cold winter's day. Another soup that Maltese and tourists love is Aljotta (a garlic fish soup) with onions, tomatoes, rice, herbs and fish.
Being in close proximity to Italy, pasta dishes are in abundance in Malta. A favourite of the Maltese at lunchtime is Baked Macaroni (Imqarrun). Macaroni, minced beef and a sprinkling of cheese are baked in the oven. Baked Rice (Ross fil-forn) is similar to the macaroni dish but uses rice instead of pasta. Another delicious Maltese dish is Timpana which is a rich pasta dish consisting of savoury baked pasta within a pastry case. A very popular pasta dish in Malta is spaghetti with rabbit (Fenek) sauce.
If you had to ask most Maltese people what our national dish is, they would probably answer that it’s rabbit. A traditional rabbit meal (Fenkata) consists of rabbit stew which is made by simmering pieces of rabbit with wine and garlic until tender.
Octopus Stew (Stuffat Tal-Qarnit) is a fish dish that should be tried by everyone visiting Malta. The octopus must be cooked for a long time at a low heat to ensure it is tender and tastes delicious. For Sunday lunch, the Maltese love Majjal fil-Forn - pork roasted in the oven with potatoes, onions and fennel seeds which smells fantastic and tastes even better!!
A truly wonderful meaty dish, which is usually enjoyed by all who try it, is Braġjoli or Beef Olives. Thin strips of beef are wrapped round a stuffing that is made from Maltese sausage and eggs. Beef gravy and onions are poured over the dish and the result is an extremely tasty, hearty meal.
The best places to buy freshly caught fish are the traditional fishing-villages of St. Paul’s Bay in the north of Malta and Marsaxlokk in the south. Every Sunday morning the fish market at Marsaxlookk attracts crowds of visitors.
Restaurants have a wide range of fish on their menu including: Spinotta (Bass), Dott (Stone Bass), Ċerna (Grouper), Dentiċi (Dentix), Aċċjola (Amberjack), Sargu (White Bream), Trill (Red Mullet)
In August the following are caught on a daily basis: Pixxispad (Swordfish), Lampuki (Dorado), Fanfri (Pilot Fish). Lampuki is plentiful in the Maltese seas and is extremely popular with locals and tourists alike. It is in season in late August and September and is served fried, baked and in pies.
First produced in 1952 and now exported to several overseas countries, including Canada & Australia, Kinnie is Malta's official soft drink.
Kinnie is amber in colour and has a bittersweet flavour. The exact Kinnie formula is a closely-guarded secret but the main ingredients are bitter Maltese chinotto oranges, combined with a mixture from a dozen different aromatic herbs and spices such as anise, ginseng, vanilla, rhubarb and liquorice. It's difficult to remain neutral after trying Kinnie - generally you either love it or hate it!
Cisk Lager is a golden-coloured, bottom-fermented lager with an alcohol content of 4.2%. Fruit and malt flavours can be noted. The name "Cisk" originates from Giuseppe Scicluna's nickname "Iċ-Ċisk" or in English, "The cheque". Scicluna was notable for his use of cheques, and due to the unpopularity of the payment method in Malta at that time, some of Scicluna's clients had the habit of referring to him as "Ċisk".
Ever since the Cisk era started, many other Cisk products were being produced and becoming popular in the local market, such as: Cisk Export (Premium Lager), Cisk Pilsner (German style Pils), Cisk XS - Extra Strong Lager, Cisk Excel (a low carb beer) & Cisk Chill (a lemon-lime Radler).
Imqaret or Date Pastries consist of puff pastry filled with dates and then deep-fried. They have a wonderful taste that is typically Maltese and can be bought at many shops and stalls.
Qubbajt or Nougat comes in many colours and flavours and is popular with Maltese and tourists alike. Many of our desserts originate from Sicily and are mainly eaten on religious feast days. The best known example is probably Figolli which consist of pastry shapes filled with marzipan and then iced in different colours. Figolli are eaten at Easter.