Written by Lidia Molina Whyte
The Maltese archipelago packs a real punch gastronomically. Embark on an adventure across these sun-drenched islands and your palate will be treated to a range of flavours from around the world, beautifully blended to create a cuisine that feels (and tastes!) decidedly Maltese.
Pasta with octopus stew, fish pie with a raisin, mint and lemon peel filling, sweet and sticky date pastries… the list of tempting concoctions is endless. Here are five of the best offerings (and where in Malta to try them):
Fenkata (or stuffat tal-fenek)
This rabbit stew is Maltese cuisine at its best. Hearty, rustic and bursting with aromatic flavours, fenkata is more than just a dish – it’s a social event that brings friends and family together. Diar il Bniet in the northern village of Ħad-Dingli serves up some of the best fenkata around. The dish is part of the field-to-table restaurant’s Maltese sharing menu, which also includes ġbejniet (cheeselets from Gozo) and fresh local bread.
Lampuki pie may look like a regular fish pie on first glance, but bite into its golden crust and you’ll discover lots of unexpected flavours. The delicate lampuki (mahi-mahi or dolphin fish in English) is laced with lemon peel, raisins and mint – a delectable nod to Malta’s Arab heritage. The fishing village of Marsaxlokk in the island’s south is an excellent spot for enjoying some of the freshest lampuki around.
These golden pastries are Malta’s version of the UK’s humble pasty. The flaky pastry is a remnant of Malta’s Arab ancestors, while the fillings – fresh ricotta cheese or spiced mushy peas – speak of the country’s strong links with Italy. They can be enjoyed across the islands, but the legendary Crystal Palace, a 100-year-old café by the gates of the walled city of Mdina, is renowned across the country for its iconic pastizzi, and is a must-visit during your trip.
Simply grilled with a squeeze of lemon, spiced in a rich stew or finely sliced into tartare, octopus is a staple of Maltese cuisine. With stuffat tal-qarnit, tenderised octopus is slow-cooked for hours in wine or sometimes beer. You’ll find many incarnations, some featuring potatoes, apples and walnuts, others sticking to black olives and capers. Noni, a modern fine-dining restaurant in the capital, uses octopus in its sumptuous tagine.