Are you planning to visit Malta for the first time? Are you looking forward to experiencing the best Malta has to offer? If your answer is yes, be sure to indulge in traditional Maltese food when you get there.
Guest post by expat-in-Malta Ed Lansink.
- What’s up With Maltese Food?
- 11 x traditional Maltese food you have to try when in Malta
- Cost of traditional Maltese dishes in Malta
- Malta food tour
- Want to learn how to cook Maltese dishes?
What’s up With Maltese Food?
Four words usually come to mind when talking about the Maltese kitchen — healthy, hearty, local, and fresh. Plus, Maltese cuisine is naturally Mediterranean. And we love Mediterranean cuisine!
We love it for a lot of reasons. Aside from the fact that it promotes healthy weight loss, the Mediterranean and thus also the Maltese diet also helps prevent several chronic degenerative illnesses, such as cardiovascular diseases, Type 2 Diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.
For those visiting Malta and would love to indulge in healthy foods, we’ve listed here 11 traditional Maltese recipes you should try.
11 x traditional Maltese food you have to try when in Malta
1. Ftira Ghawdxija
Gozitan Pizza is a speciality of the residents of Malta’s sister island, Gozo. This pizza uses a different type of dough, which is thicker and has a distinctive taste. Unlike normal pizza with fruit or meat slices for toppings, Gozitan pizza is usually served with potato toppings.
If you’re in Gozo for a trip to the Blue Lagoon, Ramla Bay and Ggantija Temples, be sure to bring Gozitan pizza with you for snacks while on the road. This delish treat is quite filling, considering its thick dough and potato topping. It's definitely on my list of the best food in Malta.
Closely related to the English baked macaroni, this treat can easily be called the ultimate Maltese pasta bake. The main ingredients are simply pastry and macaroni. To prepare this dish, cook the macaroni in a Bolognese-based sauce mixed with tomatoes, garlic, onions, minced meat, and cheese.
If you’re planning to go on a walking or hiking tour, Timpana is the perfect meal to start your day. It's packed with carbs you need to survive a long day of outdoor adventures.
3. Hobza biz zejt or Ftira
This delicious treat is much like a donut, a typical type of circular sourdough bread cut in half. It can be served with plain olive oil or smothered with sweet potato paste. Or you can have it with your personal choice of toppings, such as bigilla, capers, onions, olives, beans, tuna, or anchovies.
Perfect as a snack, you can turn it into a wrap or carry it with you inside a resealable food container.
If you prefer to eat something light on the stomach, the Maltese soup Aljotta is a great choice. This fresh and light fish soup got its flavor from a mix of herbs, as well as garlic and citrus. And the best part is the choice of fresh seafood chunks you can get your teeth into.
Think of slices of prawns, mussels, rockfish, and octopus in flavourful lemony soup in one hearty meal. The ultimate treat for the seafood lover!
The Maltese are cheese lovers, and they have a way of using cheese in many dishes. There are different types of cheese in Malta, the most loved of which is the Gbejniet.
Made from salt, rennet, and goat’s or sheep’s milk, Gbejniet is a versatile cheese that can be found in three forms—fresh, plain, or cured and flavored with pepper. You can eat Gbejneit as is, or you can also serve on salad, inside ravioli, deep fried, or in pies.
6. Stuffat Tal-Fenek
After eating this stew, you’ll never think of rabbits the same way again! In Malta, rabbit is served either fried or stewed.
Maltese Rabbit stew is a national dish. The rabbit is slow-cooked over two hours to make sure the meat is tender to the point of falling off the bone. It is then served with thick gravy made of tomato sauce with a mix of other veggies such as potatoes, garlic, carrots, and onions.
Maltese rabbit can also be paired up with pasta or spaghetti. The flavor of rabbit closely resembles chicken, but it is the sauce that carries the distinctive Maltese taste.
It won’t take long until you smell the mouth-watering scent of traditional Maltese pastizzi wafting in the air as you walk the busy highways or quiet back streets of Malta. These delicious creations are in almost every restaurant and cafe and are a perfect snack to grab when you’re out on a walking tour.
There are several signature pastizzi creations, but the two traditional ingredients of Maltese pastries are mushy curried peas and ricotta cheese. These are packed with calories, which can serve you well if you’re about to go on outdoor activities. Buy your pastries early in the morning, and pack them in resealable containers for on-the-go snacks.
8. Soppa tal-armla
Also called widow’s soup, Soppa tal-armla is one of Malta’s traditional soups. It got its name from Maltese traditions of long ago wherein widows leave their windows open as they prepare the broth in small paraffin stoves. Soppa tal-armla is made with white and green veggies, carrots, beans, cauliflower, and peas mixed in tomato paste.
The Maltese very often serve soups as a nutritious stand-alone meal and usually with poached egg and Gbejniet.
9. Torta tal-Lampuki
Also called mahi-mahi or dolphin fish, lampuki is a migrant fish that graces the Maltese waters during the months of August to December. If you happen to visit Malta during these months, brace yourself for a real treat!
The locals serve lampuki fish in many ways—oven-baked, shallow-fried, or with a rich tomato sauce with herbs and olives. But a long-time locals’ favourite is the torta tal-lampuki or lampuki pie.
The locals tend to be very creative with this dish, adding in their own choice of ingredients such as olives, spinach, cauliflower, walnuts, onions, sultanas, and tomatoes.
10. Gagħaq tal-għasel
Also called treacle or Maltese honey rings, this sweet Maltese pastry is widely associated with the holiday season, such as Christmas and the Carnival. This dessert is a ring pastry with qastanija filling, which is made of mixed spices, lemon, cinnamon, sugar, and marmalade mixed in syrup and vanilla.
In accordance to their religious tradition, the Maltese usually fast and avoid eating sweets and meat every Wednesday and Friday during the Lenten season. These traditional Maltese biscuits are prepared with honey and spices with chopped roasted almonds and unsalted pistachio nut toppings. It's filling food that does not contain eggs and fat.
Cost of traditional Maltese dishes in Malta
When visiting Malta, you can easily find the traditional foods listed above in local restaurants. Malta food and drink prices are reasonable too. You can enjoy one or more traditional dishes at a nearby inexpensive restaurant at a cost of €12.
Or if you like to try a three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant, you can have a great meal at €50. Regular cappuccino is at €1.84 and a 0.5-litre draught of local beer is at €2.50.
Malta food tour
If you want to learn about typical Maltese food from a local, consider going on a food tour while you're there.
This 3-hour Valletta food tour takes you to local restaurants and gourmet shops in the Maltese capital. Be prepared to indulge in tons of Maltese specialties such as Maltese cheese, chocolate, wine, and more!
Want to learn how to cook Maltese dishes?
If you'd like to learn prepare some Maltese dishes yourself, have a look at this Maltese cookbook full of traditional Maltese recipes.
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Ed Lansink is a tourist-turned expat who runs a local blog with the name of Malta Uncovered, a travel guide for curious travelers looking to get the most out of their holiday in Malta. Ed provides insider knowledge on cultural events, the best places to visit, where to get a taste of local cuisine, insight on the best hotels in Malta and much more! You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram.