Maltese Cuisine: 5 Foods to Eat in Malta
In over three decades of traveling and eating my way around the world, I have found Maltese cuisine to be one of the most peculiar.
A Curious Blend of Influences
Nestled in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, the picturesque archipelago of Malta is not only known for its rich history, stunning beaches, and vibrant culture but also for its delectable traditional cuisine.
Maltese cuisine is a curious blend of influences from neighboring Mediterranean countries, including Italy, Great Britain, Spain, and North Africa.
In this post, we embark on a gastronomic adventure to uncover the hidden gems of Malta’s traditional food. Let’s explore the flavors, ingredients, and unique Maltese history that make this cuisine a true novelty for even the most seasoned food travelers.
Exploring Maltese Cuisine
You’ll find that I’ve included a couple of meat dishes, which is not something I usually do. The reason is that on the trip to Malta I was accompanied by my lovely mom. She insisted on trying all the Maltese delicacies, meat based or not. However, she promised to only go for traditional dishes and local ingredients.
Malta is an island archipelago where virtually the only locally sourced animal protein is the rabbit. Hence mom wasn’t going to have steak for breakfast, lunch and dinner anyway. We had an agreement.
In our week of exploring Malta, Gozo and Comino islands, we really sampled some wonderful local dishes.
We left the islands feeling like we had a pretty good understanding of Maltese cuisine. And with it its history – despite the complex past influences on that part of Europe.
Foods to Eat in Malta
Here are the 5 foods we recommend you try on your trip to Malta to fully appreciate traditional Maltese cuisine:
1. Ftira and Hobza – Maltese Breads
No culinary exploration of Malta would be complete without mentioning the beloved ftira and hobza breads. These rustic, round-shaped breads are a staple in Maltese households and an integral part of local cuisine.
Made from simple ingredients like flour, yeast, salt, and water, they are traditionally baked in wood-fired ovens. The result is a crispy exterior and a soft, doughy interior.
They are often used as a base for mouthwatering sandwiches filled with tomatoes, tuna, olives, capers, and local cheese. A simple street food that reflects the island’s coastal Mediterranean heritage.
In 2020 UNESCO added ftira to their list of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This act truly emphasized the cultural importance of bread on the islands
2. Pastizzi – A Savory Pastry Delight
When it comes to popular street food in Malta, pastizzi reign supreme. These delightful pastries are a legacy of the island’s historical connection to Italy. Pastizzi consist of flaky, buttery pastry filled with either ricotta cheese (pastizzi tal-irkotta) or mushy peas (pastizzi tal-piżelli).
Enjoy your pastry hot for a perfect snack or breakfast on the go. Don’t forget to pair your pastizzi with a cup of tea or a traditional Maltese drink. Try Kinnie, a unique blend of bitter oranges and aromatic herbs.
3. Stuffat tal-Fenek – Rabbit Stew
For those seeking a taste of traditional Maltese comfort food, look no further than stuffat tal-fenek, a hearty rabbit stew. Rabbit meat holds a special place in Maltese cuisine. This slow-cooked stew is a testament to the island’s rural traditions.
You marinate it in red wine and a medley of aromatic herbs and spices. Then simmered to perfection with potatoes, garlic, onions, tomatoes, and tomato paste. The result is a rich, flavorsome stew that showcases the depth of Maltese culinary heritage.
4. Timpana – A Savory Pasta Bake
Timpana is a unique dish that reflects the Italian influence on Maltese cuisine. This oven-baked pasta dish consists of macaroni mixed with a rich, savory tomato sauce. It’s infused with minced meat, onions, garlic, and herbs.
What makes Timpana truly distinctive is its crust. Local chefs cover the pasta with a layer of pastry dough before baking. The end result is a golden, crispy top that adds an extra layer of texture and flavor.
Timpana is a popular special occasion and family gatherings dish, making it a true taste of Maltese hospitality. Pro tip: you can buy it cut up in portions in many cafes around Malta.
5. Kannoli – A Sweet Treat from Sicily
To satisfy your sweet tooth, Kannoli is a must-try dessert in Malta. Unlike their Sicilian neighbors, the Maltese people spell kannoli with a k.
These crispy pastry tubes are filled with a creamy, sweet ricotta cheese filling. They are often infused with flavors like orange blossom water or vanilla. The kannoli shells are delicately fried to achieve a perfect balance of crunchiness and tenderness.
Kannoli is typically served with a dusting of powdered sugar and sometimes adorned with chocolate chips or candied fruit. This delightful treat encapsulates the essence of Maltese desserts and will leave you craving for more.
Other Maltese foods and drinks to look for:
- Fresh seafood dishes (mom and I especially loved the local whitebait)
- Aljotta fish soup
- Prickly pear jam and preserves
- Maltese wines and Cisk lager beer
- Imqaret date pastry
- Local sheep and goat cheese and Maltese ricotta
- Seasonal fruit – especially pomegranate
- Pizza – not something I usually recommend but there are so many Italian influences in Malta’s food and their pizza reflects it!
Restaurants to try Maltese Cuisine
Here are some of the best places around Malta to sample traditional Maltese cuisine:
Hope it helps friends! Enjoy your trip to Malta and let us know what delicacies you loved the most. Know of a restaurant or a Maltese cuisine dish that we should add to the list? Leave a comment below!