The most important tip I can give you on Malta local food, and the only one that will make you elevate from being a tourist to becoming a real traveler immersed in the local culture, is “Stay away from McDonalds“. When visiting Malta, there is awesome local food to try. Head to the local eateries too, and go where the locals go. For me, the food, wine and and even the water is part of the travel experience.
What to Eat in Malta
Distinctly Maltese cuisine is not hard to find but does exist. The food eaten draws its influences from Italian cuisine. Most restaurants in resort areas like Sliema cater largely to British tourists, offering pub grub like meat and three veg or bangers and mash, and you have to go a little out of the way to find ‘real’ Maltese food. One of the island’s specialities is rabbit (fenek), and small savoury pastries known as pastizzi are also ubiquitous. The Maltese celebratory meal is fenkata, a feast of rabbit, marinated overnight in wine and bay leaves.
The first course is usually spaghetti in rabbit sauce, followed by the rabbit meat stewed or fried (with or without gravy). Look out for specialist fenkata restaurants, such as Ta L’Ingliz in Mgarr. True Maltese food is quite humble in nature, and rather fish and vegetable based — the kind of food that would have been available to a poor farmer, fisherman, or mason. Thus one would find staples like soppa ta’ l-armla (widow’s soup) which is basically a coarse mash of whatever vegetables are in season, cooked in a thick tomato stock.
Then there’s arjoli which is a julienne of vegetables, spiced up and oiled, and to which are added butter beans, a puree made from broadbeans and herbs called bigilla, and whatever other delicacies are available, like Maltese sausage (a confection of spicy minced pork,coriander seeds, garlic and parsley, wrapped in a hog casing) or ?bejniet (simple cheeselets made from goats’ or sheep milk and rennet, served either fresh, dried or peppered). Maltese sausage is incredibly versatile and delicious.
It can be eaten raw (the pork is salted despite appearances), dried, or roasted. A good plan is to try it as part of a Maltese platter, increasingly available in tourist restaurants. Sun dried tomatoes and bigilla with water biscuits are also excellent. Towards the end of summer one can have one’s fill of fried lampuki (dolphin fish) in tomato and caper sauce. One must also try to have a bite of ?ob? bi?-?ejt, which is leavened Maltese bread, cut into thick chunks, or else baked unleavened ftira, and served drenched in olive oil. The bread is then spread with a thick layer of strong tomato paste, and topped (or filled) with olives, tuna, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, and the optional arjoli (which in its simpler form is called ?ardiniera).
What to Drink in Malta
A typical soft drink that originated in Malta is Kinnie, a non-alcoholic fizzy drink made from bitter oranges (called “Chinotto orange”) and slightly reminiscent of Martini. The local beer is called Cisk (pronounced “Chisk”) and, for a premium lager (4.2% by volume), it is very reasonably priced by UK standards. It has a uniquely sweeter taste than most European lagers and is well worth trying. Other local beers, produced by the same company which brews Cisk, are Blue Label Ale, Hopleaf, 1565, Lacto (“milk stout”), and Shandy (a typical British mixture pre-mixture of equal measures of lager and 7-UP).
Other beers have been produced in Malta in direct competition with Cisk such as ‘1565’ brewed and bottled in the Lowenbrau brewery in Malta. Since late 2006 another beer produced by a different company was released in the market called “Caqnu”. A lot of beers are also imported from other countries or brewed under license in Malta, such as Carlsberg, Lowenbrau, SKOL, Bavaria, Guinness, Murphy’s stout and ale, Kilkenny, John Smith’s, Budweiser, Becks, Heineken, Efes, and many more.
Malta has two indigenous grape varieties, Girgentina and ?ellewza, although most Maltese wine is made from various imported vines. Maltese wines directly derived from grapes are generally of a good quality, Marsovin and Delicata being prominent examples, and inexpensive, as little as 60-95ct per bottle. Both wineries have also premium wines which have won various international medals There are also many amateurs who make wine in their free time and sometimes this can be found in local shops and restaurants, especially in the Mgarr and Si??iewi area. Premium wines such as Meridiana are an excellent example of the dedication that can be found with local vineyards.
The main Maltese night life district is Paceville (pronounced “pach-a-vil”), just north of St. Julian’s. Young Maltese (as young as high school-age) come from all over the island to let their hair down, hence it gets very busy here, especially on weekends (also somewhat on Wednesdays, for midweek drinking sessions). Almost all the bars and clubs have free entry so you can wander from venue to venue until you find something that suits you. The bustling atmosphere, cheap drinks, and lack of cover charges makes Paceville well worth a visit.
The nightlife crowd becomes slightly older after about midnight, when most of the youngsters catch buses back to their towns to meet curfew. Paceville is still going strong until the early hours of the morning, especially on the weekends. Interestingly it does not rain much on Malta and almost all of the drinking water is obtained from the sea via large desalination plants on the west of the island or from the underground aquifer.
Other local foods, or drinks that you recommend? Please add and comment.