Living in Malta for a while, it may easily seem that there’s no such thing as Maltese food, and all they eat here is pizza, pasta, burgers, and chips.
But is it really so? In my recent article about finding restaurants that don’t suck, I discussed some ways to find a variety of different foods. But what about actual Maltese food?
Even though Maltese food, unfortunately, isn’t commonplace any longer, it does exist! And I must say – it’s amazing! Knowing where to go, you can get some fabulous treats. And no – Maltesers are not from Malta 🙂
So What’s Maltese Food All About?
Maltese cuisine is a fairly interesting combination of the Mediterranean cuisine and English foods, with a bit of Arabic twist added to it if you ask me.
Because of this, there’s heavy emphasis on things like olives and capers that grow here in abundance, but also a variety of meats – probably inherited from the British.
A crucial part of the Maltese cuisine is, of course, the rabbit. If you Googled “Maltese food”, you’d probably have 9 of the 10 sites you look at mentioning the rabbit. Nowadays, though, it almost seems as if the rabbit is only served to tourists and rarely eaten by the locals – at least not more often than once or twice a year.
But apart from the rabbit and the Pastizzi (Google it!), there are some other amazing Maltese dishes that can actually be found in many restaurants.
The Braġjoli (or Bragioli) are essentially stuffed beef rolls, with the stuffing made of bread, but also bacon, garlic, carrot, onions and a bunch of other yummy stuff.
It’s typically a very saucy dish, ideal for people like me who hate few things more than dry food.
A traditional Maltese seafood soup, there’s actually a million (okay, I exaggerate) different variations of it. I’ve eaten Aljotta at perhaps 10 different restaurants so far, and it’s been different every single time.
It almost looks like you can put any seafood in a soup and call it Aljotta, but most of the times it contains some shell fish, along with some white fish bits. Depending on the recipe, it can also have rice in it – making it very interesting indeed.
Translated into English, it’s a Lampuki Pie – with Lampuki being a small-ish white fish that lives in the Mediterranean.
There are several restaurants that serve this dish, as well as other variations of Lampuki – be it grilled, fried, or oven-baked.
Mostly a carnival treat, you can find an abundance of it during the Carnival in February. At other times it’s a bit more difficult to find, but many of the traditional restaurants still serve it all-year-round.
Prinjolata is made of biscuit and sponge cake and covered with white frosting and melted chocolate.
There are, of course, many other Maltese dishes, but the above are my favourite four.
Unfortunately, not many places serve traditional Maltese food any longer, but there are some that I’ve been to and feel they certainly deserve my recommendation.
This amazing restaurant is located on the main street of Mosta. Ever since it opened in 1969, it’s been run by the same lady – Marija. And she’s still there every single day, looking after the restaurant and her clients. You can’t wish for a warmer welcome than this!
Ta’Marija is as “traditional” as it gets, not only when it comes to food, but also with its overall vibe and the setup. They even have folklore acts on a few times each week – all of which are orchestrated by Marija herself.
When it comes to restaurants for Maltese food, it’s hands down my favourite.
Located in Mellieha, it’s a bit out of the way for most, but still definitely worth checking out.
Even though I don’t eat rabbit myself, I’ve been assured by a lot of my guests that their rabbit stews are to die for. Personally, I’m a huge fan of their Bragioli, and if it wasn’t a half an hour drive away I’d definitely visit the place more often than I do.
Apart from traditional food, they also serve the “usual stuff”, which is a good addition for those who are travelling with fussy eaters in their company 🙂
Saying that there’s no such thing as Maltese food is clearly very short-sighted and ignorant, but I do very well see how this perception can develop.
I only wish there were more establishments serving these dishes.
What’s your favourite Maltese dish? Let us know in the comments below!
Hi Janar I came across your article just now .. I am Maltese despite my Arab surname ,which I have as I am married to an Iraqi man . I am writing to tell you that the Maltese still eat rabbits not just at restaurants ,many even breed them . Rabbit stew is a common Sunday dinner ,with the first plate of spaghetti with the rabbit stew .Rabbit marinated in lots of garlic ,bay leaves ,mixed spice ,wine etc then fried or roasted . There are many restaurants that cook typical Maltese and most cook both typical Maltese and Continental.
While visiting Malta (again), I’ve noticed how similar your “traditional” recipes are to the greek ones!! It was really interesting noticing that we share so much in common, food among other things, even though I mostly ended up trying some chinese, indian and italian recipes. 😀
My friend Mario and family run the Crosskeys. I have to say their food is delish with a great selection on the menu for all tastes. Upstairs is a lovely restaurant with balconies to eat outside (good for a romantic night) and a pub and pizzeria down stairs. Most recommended! It’s in Mellieħa and well worth a visit. Enjoy!
I do think that the “Braġjoli” is also influenced by Italian cooking, for me it comes from the “Braciole” from South Italy , it looks like the same recipe… originaly done with horse meat (not beef), I know a maltese restaurant which do this too (horse meat). 🙂