When it comes to experiencing Malta’s rich and diverse culinary culture, several dishes stand out as must-tries. From savoury pastries to hearty stews and sweet delicacies, Maltese cuisine offers a tantalizing journey for your taste buds. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the most iconic Maltese dishes you can’t miss while visiting this beautiful Mediterranean island.
Pastizzi: Malta’s Beloved Savory Pastries
No culinary exploration of Malta is complete without savouring Pastizzi. These savoury pastries are a true Maltese treasure and a beloved snack among locals and tourists alike. Pastizzi come in two main varieties: ricotta-filled and pea-filled.
The ricotta-filled pastizzi are flaky, golden parcels filled with creamy ricotta cheese that melts in your mouth. On the other hand, the pea-filled pastizzi offers a delightful blend of flavours and textures, with seasoned peas encased in the same delicious pastry.
Whether enjoyed as a quick breakfast treat or as a snack any time of the day, pastizzi are a quintessential Maltese experience that will leave you craving more.
Rabbit Stew (Stuffat Tal-Fenek): A Maltese Classic
Rabbit stew, known as “Stuffat Tal-Fenek” in Maltese, is deeply rooted in culinary tradition. It’s a hearty and flavorful stew made with tender rabbit pieces, slow-cooked in a rich tomato-based sauce infused with garlic, onions, and a medley of aromatic herbs.
The secret to a delicious Stuffat Tal-Fenek lies in the slow cooking process, allowing the flavours to meld together and the rabbit to become incredibly tender. This dish is often served with crusty Maltese bread to soak up every last drop of the delectable sauce.
Taste of the Sea: Fresh Lampuki Pie
Lampuki pie is a Maltese seafood delight that showcases the island’s close connection to the Mediterranean Sea. Lampuki, also known as mahi-mahi or dolphinfish, is the star ingredient in this dish. The fish is combined with a medley of vegetables, such as onions, tomatoes, capers, and olives, all encased in a golden, flaky pastry crust.
The result is a harmonious blend of flavours that capture the essence of the Mediterranean. Lampuki pie is typically enjoyed during the lampuki season, which runs from late summer to early autumn, making it a seasonal treat to look forward to.
Maltese Sausage (Zalzett Malti): A Flavorful Delicacy
For those who appreciate the bold flavours of cured meats, Maltese sausage, or “Zalzett Malti,” is a delicacy not to be missed. This sausage is made from coarsely ground pork, seasoned with a special blend of spices, including black pepper, coriander seeds, and garlic.
What sets Maltese sausage apart is the aging process. It’s left to air-dry for several weeks, intensifying the flavours and texture to become firm and satisfyingly chewy. Sliced thin and served with fresh Maltese bread or as part of a platter with local cheeses, Maltese sausage is a testament to the island’s artisanal culinary craftsmanship.
Timpana: The Ultimate Maltese Comfort Food
Timpana is the epitome of Maltese comfort food. This baked pasta dish features macaroni enveloped in a rich, savoury sauce made with minced meat, tomatoes, onions, and a blend of spices. What makes Timpana truly special is the pasta’s preparation.
The macaroni is traditionally encased in a pastry shell, creating a delicious, carb-loaded parcel. Timpana’s outer crust contrasts beautifully with the tender pasta and savoury filling when baked to golden perfection. This dish embodies the heartwarming flavours of Malta, making it a favourite among locals and visitors alike.
Gbejniet: Maltese Cheese Heaven on a Plate
No exploration of Maltese cuisine would be complete without indulging in Gbejniet, a delightful Maltese cheese. These small, round cheeselets are typically made from goat’s milk and come in fresh and dried varieties.
Fresh Gbejniet has a soft and creamy texture with a mild, slightly tangy flavour, while dried Gbejniet develops a firmer texture and a more pronounced, complex taste. They are often enjoyed as a snack or part of a traditional Maltese platter with olives, tomatoes, and crusty bread. Gbejniet showcases the simplicity and purity of Maltese ingredients.
Kannoli: Crispy, Creamy Dessert Delights
When it’s time for dessert, Maltese cuisine doesn’t disappoint. Kannoli is a sweet treat that will transport your taste buds straight to Sicily, which has strongly influenced Maltese culinary traditions. These crispy pastry shells are filled with a sweet ricotta cheese filling, often infused with a hint of orange blossom water or vanilla.
Combining the crunchy shell and the creamy, sweet filling creates a delightful contrast of textures and flavours. Kannoli is often garnished with powdered sugar or chopped pistachios, adding an extra layer of indulgence to this beloved dessert.
Figolla: Celebrating Easter with Maltese Cookie Cakes
Figolla is a unique Maltese dessert traditionally associated with Easter. These almond-based cookie cakes come in various shapes, including hearts, crosses, and fish, each symbolizing different aspects of the holiday. Figolla is a labor of love, often prepared by families in the lead-up to Easter Sunday.
The cookie cakes are filled with a sweet almond paste and decorated with colourful icing and sprinkles. It’s a delicious treat and a cherished part of Easter traditions in Malta, often exchanged among friends and family as a symbol of love and celebration.
In conclusion, exploring Maltese cuisine is a delightful journey through a rich tapestry of flavours influenced by centuries of history and a vibrant Mediterranean culture. From the savoury indulgence of Pastizzi to the heartwarming comfort of Timpana and the sweet delights of Kannoli and Figolla, these must-try Maltese dishes offer a true taste of Malta’s culinary heritage. So, when you visit this enchanting island, savour these iconic dishes for an authentic and unforgettable gastronomic experience.