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Your Guide to Malta and Gozo - Food and Drink

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Food and Drink

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Bigilla! Galletti! Ġbejniet! Timpana! Braġjoli! And..... pastizzi! These are some well known Maltese delicacies popular with locals and visitors alike.

Bigilla is a tasty dip made from mashed tic beans, garlic, herbs and spices and a good dash of olive oil that goes particularly well with galletti (Maltese water buiscuits). Also popular with galletti are ġbejniet (Singular: ġbejna, diminutive of ġobna – cheese). These are made from goat’s milk and come in two main versions. Somewhat bland are the plain, fresh ġbejniet; much tastier is the peppered variety.

The thick crusted ħobża tal-Malti (Maltese bread) is delicious, especially if eaten straight from the oven. The Maltese ftira is typically a round, flat bread also with a thick crust and is absolutely delicious with a tomato, olive, tuna and onion filling together with capers and broad beans withherbs and olive oil - the well known ħobż biż-żejt (“bread with [olive] oil”)

Maltese cookery has been heavily influenced by Italian and Sicilian cuisine and pasta dishes are exceedingly popular. Timpana consists of baked macaroni in a hearty, meaty sauce encased in pastry. Spaghetti, especially with rabbit sauce (or octopus) are also very popular.

Braġjoli, or “beef olives” consist of thin slices of rump steak, encasing a filling of minced beef and bacon rashers.

Fish is another firm favourite of the locals. The lampuka (dorado or dolphin fish: Coryphaena hippurus) is perhaps Malta’s favourite fish, and may be served in pies, fried or stuffed. Other popular fish include: awrat (sea bream), spnott (sea bass), ċerna (grouper), vopi (bogue) and pixxispad (swordfish).

Pastizzi are colorie-laden savoury pastries that are absolutely delicious (take my word for it!). They are typically rhomboid in shape, although they may also be occasionally round. They usually contain a filling of ricotta cheese (pastizzi tal-irkotta, or “cheescake” in English); or a pea mixture (pastizzi tal-piżelli, or “pea cakes”). Qassatat are similar pastries but are normally round, thicker and with a heavier crust.

Mqaret make for a tasty morsel. These may be purchased from street vendors, particularly near the Valletta City gate, and are deep fried pastry parcels with a date-filling. Exquisite as they may be, these are not recommended for those watching their waistline!

All major international brands of soft drinks, such as Coca Cola, 7-Up, Fanta and Sprite are widely available in regular and light versions. Kinnie is Malta’s very own, much acclaimed bitter-sweet soft drink and has been made by Farsons since 1952. It is a pleasant alternative to colas and other fizzy drinks. Farsons have also been brewing their award-winning beers since 1928. Their range comprises Cisk Lager which also comes in Premium and Extra-Strong versions, Hopleaf, Blue Label, and the milk-containing Lacto. Despite the influx of foreign beers, Farson’s beers have retained their popularity.

As far as dining styles go, most major cuisines are represented in Malta, including Chinese, Indian, Lebanese, Mediterranean and Italian. Pizzerias abound especially in tourist and entertainment areas such as Sliema, Paceville, Buġibba and Valletta. Menus typically also include a wide selection of pasta and starters and often, fish and poultry dishes. Some pizzerias and other restaurants may offer a set-menu consisting of a hearty three course meal for as little as €13.00 - €20.00. À la carteoptions are also typically available, with a main course costing anything from €10.00 to €20.00. An eat-all-you-can buffet at a major hotel restaurant would probably set you back some €20.00 to €30.00, exclusive of beverages.

Vegetarian dining

As a rule, the Maltese are voracious meat eaters. It should never be too difficult for the herbivores amongst us to satisfy their taste buds however!

Set in a picturesque location, Tate’s Café and Restaurant at Birgu (Vittoriosa) is the only exclusively vegetarian restaurant in Malta, and vegans may also be catered for upon request. Weather permitting, one may also dine al fresco and enjoy a magnificent view of the Grand Harbour.Tel: (+356) 21 808 828.

Other restaurants, whilst not exclusively vegetarian usually have several vegetarian options on their menu. Such options are normally marked with a “V” symbol and are often mainly pasta-based. Beware however that fish-containing dishes have on occasion been erroneously marked as “vegetarian”.

The starters section of any buffet normally contains several meat-free options; the main course is perhaps a stumbling block but chefs are normally willing to prepare a special vegetarian meal for patrons requesting them. It is advisable to call up the restaurant in advance to advise the chef accordingly.