Maltese cuisine is known for its diverse mix of different Mediterranean cooking, which is influenced by the many countries that have conquered Malta over the century. As a melting pot of French, Silician, North African, English, Spanish, and Arabic foods, Maltese people were able to quickly adapt and transform the eclectic blend of flavours into their own bespoke versions, creating a unique and interesting taste.
Traditional Maltese foods are rustic and heavily reliant upon the seasons. Its enormous servings can definitely fill you up to your satisfaction.
Get ready to tickle your taste buds as we give you our personal top 15 must-try Maltese foods.
1. Rabbit Stew
A definite must try, hence why it is listed as number 1 in the list! Rabbit stew, known in Maltese language as 'Stuffat tal-Fenek,' is not only considered Malta's national dish but is also one of the best dishes you will ever taste on the island. The meat is simmered slowly in a rich wine and tomato sauce infused with bay leaves for at least an hour or half to allow the flavours to complement each other and deliver a culinary experience like no other. This dish is so popular in Maltese culture that the Maltese often plan lunches and dinners around the word "fenkata," which means that they will be eating rabbit stew for lunch or dinner.
A type of Maltese cheese that is traditionally made from goat or sheep's milk, salt, and rennet. It is known for its ricotta-like taste and texture. It can be made fresh, dried or cured, or flavoured with pepper, depending on your preference. Enjoy it deep fried, on salad, in pies, or even a ravioli stuffing.
3. Ħobż Biż-Żejt
Translating as bread with oil, ħobż biż-żejt is made of sourdough, is sliced and then smeared with tomato paste (called 'kunserva' in Maltese) and drizzled with olive oil. Being Malta's number one snack, top it with canned tuna or white pickled anchovies, ġbejniet, bigilla, olives, or pickled vegetables.
Pastizzi are diamond-shaped pastries made of phyllo dough and stuffed with either ricotta or a slightly spicy pea filling. In Maltese, they are known as 'pastizzi tal-irkotta' and 'pastizzi tal-piżelli' respectively. Enjoy them anytime with your favourite hot or cold drink! For a complete Maltese experience, we recommend pairing pastizzi with Kinnie, a bitter orange soda-like beverage that is also a must try when in Malta.
5. Lampuki Pie
Lampuki pie is a traditional Maltese fish pie with lampuki as its main ingredient. Lampuki is the Maltese term for the dorado fish, also known as Mahi Mahi. Alongside the white, delicate, savoury lampuki, other ingredients required for this pie include garlic, onions, tomato puree, carrots, cauliflower, black olives, spinach and peas. The variety of ingredients required for this pie portrays a blend of the British, Arabic and Italian influences on Maltese cuisine. A slice of lampuki pie is literally a history lesson served on a plate!
Braġjoli (bragioli) is the Maltese term for beef olives and they are one of the most traditional Maltese cuisines. Stuffed and rolled pieces of thin beef steak are slowly braised in a tomato-based sauce with onion and garlic as a base to give you a flavourful melt-in-the-mouth experience.
Kapunata is a popular Maltese version of the French ratatouille dish. This delightful dish is a staple of Maltese cuisine, usually cooked and stored in large batches and served hot or cold. Kapunata is flexible when it comes to ingredients, featuring humble ones such as large chunks of tomatoes, bell peppers, olives, aubergine (eggplant) and capers, along with herbs. Enjoy Kapunata with grilled fish and plenty of fresh slices of Maltese bread.
8. Soppa Tal-Armla
Also known as the Widow's soup, soppa tal-armla is a traditional, deliciously soothing soup that is perfect in chilly weather. While this healthy soup is mostly made from fresh vegetables, such as peas or broad beans, cauliflower, potatoes, carrots and onions, you can also add eggs and toss some of the popular soft ġbejniet cheese into the hot soup. Relish the delightful taste of the molten cheese in this unique one of a kind soup!
Kusksu is a delectable, heartwarming Maltese traditional soup made with broad beans, peas, and small pasta beans known as kusksu. Although kusksu pasta is like couscous in its shape, they are not the same as kusksu tends to be lighter and fluffier in its texture. Kusksu soup can be served with ġbejniet, eggs, and even a teaspoon of dried mint for added flavour.
This is another delectable traditional Maltese soup which was a staple during World War II. It is typically made with a variety of fresh vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, cauliflowers, cabbage, pumpkin, kohlrabi, and broad beans, along with bacon or smoked pork shank. Kawlata is the perfect dinner for the cold winter months. One can add macaroni pasta to it as a modern kawlata twist.
This is an extensively popular and traditional Maltese dip made of mashed broad beans or tic beans, olive oil, garlic, herbs, and seasoning. Bigilla is often served as a delicious dip for crackers, a condiment to accompany salads, or simply eaten on its own. It goes along perfectly well with cheese and cold cuts platters and is also the perfect combination when spread on Maltese bread or galletti, the Maltese term for water crackers.
Lemony and herb-rich aljotta is a popular Maltese dish that is typically served during Lent, since meat is prohibited at this time of year. This savoury fish soup is an adaptation of France's bouillabaisse but is not intended to contain a lot of seafood. It is more similar to a tasty, richly flavoured fish stock containing a blend of garlic, tomatoes, fresh marjoram and soft potato or rice.
13. Ross Il-Forn
'Ross il-forn' is a well-known Maltese-style oven baked rice. It can be considered as the ultimate comfort food. Translated from Maltese, ross il-forn means baked rice. Its main ingredient, besides parboiled long-grain rice, is ground beef or pork. One can complement it with bacon, marrows and ricotta, depending on one's culinary tastes. This versatile dish can also be twisted into a vegetarian one, where red lentils can be added instead of ground meat and the beef stock replaced with a good, tasty vegetable one. Make ross il-forn look even more scrumptious by topping it up with dashes of parmesan cheese and enjoy its luscious Mediterranean flavours!
Timpana is a traditional baked pasta (macaroni or penne) in pastry. This traditional delightful Maltese pasta pie uses the same sauce and pasta as the prominent 'imqarrun il-forn', but pieces of chicken liver are added, as well as peas, hard-boiled eggs, and parmesan cheese when mixing the sauce and pasta. Enjoy its mouthwatering goodness with every bite—crispy on the outside and moist and savoury on the inside!
15. Imqarrun Il-Forn
Imqarrun is a baked pasta dish, similar to the Italian or American baked macaroni. This delicious and satisfying Maltese cuisine is served with tomato sauce and cheese and baked until golden on top. You can turn this versatile dish into a Timpana – all one has to do is to add pastry to it! We guarantee you will find it challenging to decide which is tastier between the two!
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