A foodie experience through Malta’s exciting cuisine

Before I traveled to Malta I didn’t know anything about the country’s cuisine other than it has influences from their neighbor, Italy. I expected to find a lot of Italian restaurants, which I did, but that was just a small part of this amazing culinary journey I took on this small Mediterranean island.

Pastizzi

You could say that Pastizzi are Malta’s national snack. You will find them everywhere and they usually cost around 50p each. They are great for a snack on the go or a quick lunch. Pastizzi are traditional savory pastry filled with either ricotta or mushy peas and are usually warm because they are baked all day long due to their popularity. The pastry used in making Pastizzi is similar with the Greek phyllo pastry and depending on their filling, they are fold differently.

One of the best places to have Pastizzi in Malta is the Crystal Palace, in Rabat. Don’t let its appearance put you off, they are told to be the best Pastizzi on the island. The place is very authentic, small and scruffy, with lots of men sitting at the 3 tables squeezed inside, drinking beer and playing cards. Just go to the front and ask for their famous Pastizzi.

Pastizzi Malta
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Ftira (hobz biz-zejt)

There are two types of ftira in Malta, depending where are you having it: on the main island or in Gozo. I had the Maltese ftira for dinner during my first evening in Malta. It was supposed to be just a snack but it was so large that I regretfully had to leave some on the plate as I couldn’t eat it anymore.

You could say that ftira is a tuna sandwich when you first see it. But it is so much more than this! Inside the crusty fresh baked bread (similar with a ciabatta) you will find an amalgam of tasty Mediterranean flavours. Firstly, the round shaped bread is coated with olive oil on the inside, and then rubbed with ripe tomatoes. Then the bread is seasoned with salt and pepper and the toppings are added: tuna, capers, pickled onions, olives.

I had the tuna ftira at the Fontanella Tea Garden, a beautiful terrace situated on the walls of Mdina, overlooking the entire East of the island. As I mentioned before, the portion was huge and the cakes looked delicious also.

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Ftira (Għawdxija tal-ġbejna)

The Gozitan ftira is very different from the one you find on the main island, as I said before. The only thing they have in common is the bread dough. The ftira from Gozo is closer to the Italian pizza by looks but has a unique taste. While the base is made out of bread dough, the filling is local cheese (fresh sheep or goat cheese and peppered mature cheese) and thin slices of potato. If you are a fan of cheese, like me, you will love the Gozitan ftira.

The fresh Maltese cheese, Ġbejna, has a milky flavour and it’s similar to mozzarella as texture, but with a salty taste. The peppered cheese is the same Ġbejna but cured and covered in crushed black pepper, making it crumbly and fairly spicy. Having both of them combined in a ftira is simply a treat for your taste buds.

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The Gozitan Platter

You can’t leave Malta without trying a selection of the country’s best Mediterranean selection, found on a Gozitan platter.  This is the best thing to order if you want to share an appetiser with your friends. The Maltese platter is similar, but I have only tried it in Gozo, so this is what I am going to talk about this one only.

Firstly, a meal in Malta will start with Ħobż biż-żejt, slices of bread topped with olive oil, tomato paste and salt and pepper.  Then the typical platter from Gozo follows: gbejniet tal-bzar (peppered mature cheese), fresh sheep’s cheese, galletti crackers, bigilla dip (broad beans, garlic and parsley), sundries tomatoes, olives, capers and fresh tomatoes. Alongside there will be fresh baked bread with 3 dips: tomato paste, beans with parsley and a vegetable mix. I experienced this wonderful traditional meal in the unique Gozo tour run by Karlito’s Way.

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Rabbit

For some strange reason, as I haven’t seen any running wild on the island, rabbit it is considered to be the national dish of Malta. You can have it in a stew or friend in garlic or wine. As it’s a special dish, you will usually find it priced higher than the other items on a restaurant’s menu.

During my stay in Malta I have tried the garlic fried rabbit. I was surprised to receive about half of an entire rabbit on my plate, including its organs and a lot of bones, which made it a bit difficult to eat without making a mess. The taste of the dish was very rich and flavorsome but the size of the portion made it impossible for me to finish it. It was served with fries and a glass of Cisk, the local beer.

I had the rabbit at Luciano’s Restaurant in Valletta, the capital of Malta. The place was nice but the service very chaotic and I don’t know if I would chose it again for dinner.

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Fine dining

Besides the traditional food, Malta’s restaurant scene is very diverse and full of character. The chefs are creating new exciting dishes with the best local ingredients found on the island. It isn’t hard to find a good place to eat, with a wonderful view to admire.

I had the pleasure to dine at the Oceana Restaurant, at the Hilton and I was impressed with the high quality of the meal and the chef’s vision over the dishes. The beef was cooked exactly to my liking and the dessert was a delight for both my taste buds and my eyes.

Oceana Restaurant Malta - Bavette of beef - The World In My Pocket

Imqaret

I am not a fan of dates but I really liked the imqaret, a diamond shaped deep fried pastry filled with dates. The imqaret is a very popular sweet in Malta and you can find it everywhere for a price of around 30 cents per piece. However, most of the times the diamond shape is replaced with a rectangular one. Each imqaret is made individually by hand and is filled with a generous quantity of date paste, before being deep fried and infused with bay leaves and aniseed.

I had the imqaret hot, with halva flavored ice cream and the combination was delicious.  Halva is a sweet made out of crushed almonds, sugar or honey.

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Which Maltese traditional food would you like to try and why?

Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.

82 Comments

  1. I was wondering where exactly Malta is… and I had this impression or idea that it is a part of Italy. WRONG. It turns out this is a small nation of not even half a million people. So, I was looking at the dishes you showed. I thought the pastrini and rabbits are nice. And speaking of rabbits, I have tasted it once in my life. It’s just that it was such a strange experience and the food I ate was good, hence the good memory.

    It’s funny too when you say Maltese… of course, you’re referring to the people, I just can’t take the image of my sister’s Maltese dog out of my head. LOL. Anyway, I am sure it was a fascinating trip for you and will read more of your adventures!

  2. How many yummy things!!!! Just looking at the photos make my mouth water! When I come to Malta I’d love to try the Gozitan ftira as I am a huge fan of cheese (and pizza)!

  3. Oh my goodness, I really shouldn’t have read this when I’m hungry! That Pastizzi and Gozitan Ftira look absolutely delicious. My mouth is watering just looking at them! Sadly, I don’t have a trip to Malta planned 🙁 I will have to see if I can find a Maltese restaurant.

  4. I would love to try all of them. Haha! Just by looking at your photos, I can say that those must have flavors worth trying for. I am not really a big eater. I guess only a small piece of all those foods will surely make me full. Thanks for sharing.

  5. By the time I scrolled till the end I was confused which was my fav!!! I didn’t know rabbit meat is Malta’s national dish. I have tasted it once in one of the unique destination dining in Rajasthan.

  6. Wow! Malta is a country with all kind of pastries! I am a fan to, so would love travel to visit it to enjoy them all 🙂 Your blog post here making me craving for all 😉 Learning some food photography angles from you here. Love the way you captured the food 🙂 cheers, SiennyLovesDrawing

  7. The photos appears so delicious, don’t know what will happen if I am before the plate. I failed to choose my favourite dish from here, as I love them all. Great post

  8. Wow, I have a good food tour this morning and you have just made hungry. I like how you write about these foods, they seem really luscious. The photos really rhyme with your words and I would love to try the Pastizzi and ftira. I’ve just heard about all these kind of foods. Thank you so much for sharing!

  9. These food look appetizing. I like trying the local food whenever I travel to new places. I believe that it’s one of the best ways to get to experience the culture in that place. Sometimes, I like the local food. Other times, I have to rely on more familiar international dishes to survive. 😉

  10. OMG! That platter is divine! My husband have been to Malta before but I have not and we plan to go there together one day. The breads look really nice and yummy too. I’ll probably stuff my face silly with food from Malta when I am there.

  11. Yummy! I have a lot of Maltese friends in Australia and they make delicious food. Have you tried Ros al Forn? Looking forward to visiting Malta to try all this deliciousness for myself

  12. Oh wow, it’s great to dive head first into a country’s food- it’s how you learn about it best haha! I’ve never been to Malta but lived in Italy and around Sicily for a while so I do see a few influences. I’d love to stay in Malta for a good few weeks, rent a car and take my time exploring.

  13. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve never been to Malta, but your descriptions of the food have left me feeling pretty hungry. I’m really intrigued by the Ftira dish though (I love potatoes and cheese). Also, that beef dish looks so good, I would have never thought it would be at a Hilton.

    Since I don’t have any trips planned to Malta soon, I think I may need to hunt down a Maltese restaurant!

  14. This has been one of the most tempting experience I read this week.
    I too look around for local food in a new place. That in my opinion is the true flavor of a place.

  15. One of the best things while you travel is to taste the typical meals of a country. We are Italian so not so far from Malta! We have eaten the Pastizzi (not in Malta) and we really loved them. Now we’d like to try the rest of what you suggested 🙂

  16. When I saw your FB post on this, it really piqued my curiosity. I’ve heard about the tourist attractions in Malta but the cuisine is rarely talked about. Sounds exciting!

  17. Ftira sounds like something that can be made with only veggies and it does look yummy. Love the food shots and discovering more about the local cuisine of Malta.

  18. I have never heard of any of these before, but would love to try some of these. I always love discovering foods that belong to different cultures. Always nice to see what other people eat.

  19. I would love to try the Ftira because anything with cheese is right up my alley. I didn’t even know all of these foods existed, thankyou for enlightening me!

  20. The food is foreign to me, I’ve never tried this type of food before. I love trying new things though and would really like to try the Gozitan platter at some point and time if I ever have the wonderful opportunity.

  21. Those food look really exquisite, even their staple ones like the Imqaret. Loving the fact that Malta’s close to Italy, one of my favorite countries.

  22. This post sure made me super hungry! I think it’s awesome to be able to try these lovely dishes! Any foodie would be delighted to try these!

  23. I had no knowledge of the cuisine of Malta either. I have considered traveling to Malta though. So this is helpful for me to get to know the cuisine. The pastizzi with ricotta sounds like something I’d love. I’m such a cheese addict. Of course sounds the Gozitan ftira then also very good to me. Did I mention I love cheeses? Haha. Mozzerella texture with a salty taste sounds nice. I’m not sure if I’d like rabbit. Never tried that. The beef looks excellent! I would love to try all the cheese dishes!!

  24. This food looks amazing! My mouth is watering now for wanting to try it all. I would love to visit there someday and try all of this delicious food. Thanks for sharing!

  25. Please correctly me if am wrong, but it looks like these bread are similar to some Italians and French breads. However, they are all looked freshly delicious 🙂

  26. Pastizzi is so good! I had one with nutella inside for breakfast from one of the cafes littered between Saint Julien and Sliema. I can’t wait to go back to Malta. I wasn’t such a big fan of the ftira because the bread is a bit too tough but I loved the Italian food there! OMG… so good. The wine is decent table wine and inexpensive to have as well.

  27. That’s interesting that rabbit is the national dish. Do you think that is the case anywhere else. Your post reminded me that I haven’t had any dates yet this year!

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