Malta is way more than just a speck in the Mediterranean Sea – it’s a heavenly island full of beautiful beaches, amazing architecture, and mouth-watering dishes. The basis of the Maltese cuisine is what you call “Cucina Povera” or “Poor Man’s Kitchen,” which basically means that you get more flavor for less money. Malta’s Cucina Povera is what happened when frugal and talented Italian and Arabic cooks combined their skills to create one of the first fusion-type cuisines in the world. So, if you find yourself disembarking onto Maltese lands, I recommend you eat your way through this menu:
Let’s start off with the most popular snack, a pastizz, which you can find in – surprise! – a pastizzeria. Pastizzi are small flaky pastries stuffed with either ricotta or, if you want a healthier option, mushy peas. (It’s a bit like a croissant with a delicious secret inside.)
Ftira, a special type of flatbread that has a hole in the middle and is rubbed with oil, tomato, garlic and onion. That’s right, it’s kind of like a ciabatta bagel covered with Mediterranean love. The best ftiras are said to come from Gozo, but I’ll let you be the judge. This snack is about as Maltese as it gets, and they are the perfect summer snack – since it’s basically always summer in Malta, they are eaten all the time and everywhere.
3. Stuffat tal-fenek
Or should I just say traditional rabbit stew? This, or anything with rabbit, is considered to be the national dish of Malta. It’s slowly cooked (for hours) so that the meat can fall off the bone easily to blend with a rich sauce made with tomato, red wine and garlic. Everyone has their own opinion of what should be served alongside Stuffat tal-Fenek – so everything from vegetables to pasta and Maltese bread can be an option.
4. Soppa ta’ l-armla
Also known as Widow’s Soup, Soppa ta’ l-Armlais a vegetable soup that can be made even better with fresh Maltese cheese and an egg before topping it off with Parmesan cheese. Another option can be to add some pasta, since you know, pasta makes everything better.
When one lives on an island full of delicious cheese and fresh fruit, one does not really need a lot of desserts. Wrong. One does, so the Maltese borrowed (and adapted) a lot of dessert recipes – cannoli, bread pudding or Christmas log, for example. They generally make amazing cakes and pastry, so try as many baked goods as you can. If you’re celebrating Christmas or Carnival in Malta, you must try Qagħaq tal-Għasel, a pastry ring filled with marmalade, citrus fruit, vanilla and spices.
6. Ftira omelette sandwich
Look at the image for this article: this is what happens when you fill the ciabatta bagel from up there with an omelette – and eat it for breakfast. It’s the perfect (and hearty) start to a day full of Maltese adventures, as the Ftira omelette sandwich is and sometimes comes on a cozy bed of potato chips. Breakfast is my favorite meal and the heavier the better, so the Maltese just know the way to my heart.
7. Hobz Biz-zejt
This is an appetizer dish and usually served in fancy restaurants and bars – it’s delicious bread served with olive oil and a mixture of chopped tomatoes, onions and herbs. Simple is the new delicious.
Malta is surrounded by the sea, so you will find some of the best and freshest seafood here. One way to take advantage of this is by eating Aljotta, a traditional Maltese fish soup with garlic and tomatoes.
9. Gozitan Cheese
Cheese from Gozo, especially goat cheese, is a must! Gozo is more pastoral than Malta so you have many more shepherds, and they tend to make cheese in the morning and sell it in the afternoon. You really can’t get fresher cheese than this.
If you have a sweet tooth, like me, an Imqaret is a must-try, especially since they can be found almost anywhere: This diamond-shaped pastry is filled with dates and then deep fried to perfection. Oh, and remember those Arabic influences I mentioned earlier? Imqaret will remind you of that time you were in Morocco or Tunisia and tried some date-filled desserts. #foodmemoriesarethebestmemories