When you ask someone, who has just been to Malta what helped make their experience remarkable, more often than not, they'll bring Maltese food into the picture. Though Maltese recipes are a mixed bag of healthy foods and ones that are less so, traditional local food is very rich in flavor, well-seasoned and extremely satisfying.
Local delicacies can be found at various specialized restaurants as well as at smaller eateries that, more often than not, would've spent years, refining their own twist on Maltese classic recipes.
Some of these dishes, though found all across the island, are synonymous with particular towns and villages and both locals and tourists visit these places to experience their favourite dishes.
The following are arguably the 5 dishes, whose roots can be traced to a specific locality:
- Pastizzi from Rabat
A lot of people think that the best pastizzi on the island come from Zejtun. While we don't want to discredit Zejtun, the go-to place for this heavenly food HAS to be Rabat. There are numerous shops selling pastizzi, both the traditional and all-time favorite pea and cheese ones, as well as the pungent anchovy ones together with recent additions such as Chicken and Nutella pastizzi. Unlike all other pastizzerias flocking all of Malta and Gozo, the more traditional shops in Rabat still offer pastizzi that are baked to perfection following recipes inherited through generations guaranteeing a culinary experience that will make you ask for more…and more….and even more!!
- Fenkata (Rabbit) from Mgarr
Mgarr is a quaint village found on the north-west side of Malta with a very small population, many of which either grow crops or keep farm animals. Despite the size of this village, Mgarr is packed with restaurants specializing in Rabbit. Currently, there are more than 15 eateries, 9 of which are found in the village square, literally side by side.
The Fenkata (lunch or dinner with rabbit as the main course), is an all-Maltese menu which includes, traditional starters twinned with the Maltese loaf, spaghetti with Rabbit sauce and fried Rabbit accompanied by french fries and salad. And to close off this amazing meal, make sure you leave some room for cheeselets and Helwa tat-Tork (Turkish Delight) that will test your tolerance for sweetness.
- Maltese Bread from Qormi
In Malta, there is a love-hate relationship with the traditional Maltese Loaf. The average daily consumption of bread in Malta comes third in Europe underlining the popularity it enjoys in the Maltese Islands. This crusty sourdough bread can be enjoyed with countless different ingredients or simply with a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper. The downside of Maltese Bread is that it’s very fattening and is one of the main causes of Malta’s obesity problem. This is especially because once you pop, it's hard to stop and put it down.
This traditional loaf is typically backed in wood ovens and Qormi has always been famous for its numerous top-notch bakeries. During the time when the Knights Hospitaller ruled this land, Qormi was in fact called Casal Fornaro, which means a town of bakers. Apart from the standard daily availability of Maltese Bread in every corner of Qormi, a yearly festival attracts thousands of locals and tourists who eagerly flock the streets of this village for an evening of music, fun and obviously Maltese Bread.
- Gozo Cheeselets
Malta’s sister Island of Gozo is a gem of a place which has succeeded in keeping a very traditional, laid-back rural environment. It's a must-see place with numerous attractions and a bag full of heritage. As a recent advertising campaign states, Gozo is the most rewarding extra mile!! To top it all off, the famous Gozitan cheeselets have been gracing food-lovers' taste buds for a long number of years. The main ingredient is either cow or goats’ milk, which is put through a process called churning. Gozo cheese comes in either it’s original plain flavor or seasoned with pepper, chili or herbs. More often than not, cheeselets are paired with Maltese Bread, tomatoes, olives, capers and a tinge of extra virgin olive oil. Simply to die for!!
- Fish from Marsaxlokk
Being a small island surrounded by the Mediterranean sea, with 196.8 kilometres of coastline, the Maltese people have practised fishing since the first people settled on this island. Fishing is not only a popular pastime with many, but is also a full-time job for hundreds of professional fishermen. Marsaxlokk is the number one fishing village where numerous trawlers together with the smaller and more traditional Luzzu, Kajjik and Fregatina boats are berthed around its shore.
Needless to say, a fishing village has to have its own fish restaurants and Marsaxlokk is no different. With a ratio of one fish restaurant every 20 footsteps (approx. 😊), in the evening and even more so during weekends, all these places are jam-packed with tourists and locals enjoying a large variety of divinely cooked fish and seafood ranging from steak fish to shellfish, octopodes and molluscs, shrimp, prawns and the delicious lobster. If on the other hand, one wants to buy fish to cook at home, a daily market can be found in the main square of Marsaxlokk.
The above list of types of exquisite local cuisine will serve, not only as a gourmet's guide, but also to motivate your visit to some of the best localities that characterize traditional Maltese lifestyle. This is a good way for our students here at AUM to immerse themselves in Maltese culture and lifestyle and get the best out of their time studying here.
L-ikla t-tajba (Enjoy your meal).