A true taste of Malta
Man cannot live by bread alone and though bread is a staple of the local diet (ah those carbohydrates and the fact that Malta always scores high in the world obesity listings…) the Maltese have broadened their appetites and are mostly enthusiastic about trying new cuisines, as witnessed by a variety of restaurants serving anything from Chinese, Sushi, Italian, French, Middle Eastern and well…. a few offering traditional Maltese dishes as well.
If you’re not too keen on trying out the Maltese cuisine (and most of it is quite good) you should certainly try out a few Maltese evergreens – whether in restaurants, snack bars, a pastizzeria or even the corner shop near your resort. Here’s a personal favourites list.
Twistees - The original baked-not-fried snack-in-a-bag has been around for about 40 years and the taste is familiar to every local. Hugely popular, it’s still produced from the original factory in Marsa with unchanged packaging and the same great taste – all of 35,000 packets a day in fact, a third of which is exported to the Middle East and yes – the UK. Found literally in every corner shop in Malta. Well worth trying out and if you get addicted the company ships worldwide too, though shipping costs are quite steep.
Cisk – The Maltese Lager. The Maltese were originally a nation of wine drinkers but the British influence and the Farrugia family of entrepreneurs changed all that when Farsons Brewery opened in the 1920’s. A strong seller in spite of heavy competition and again found virtually everywhere in the island – from the best restaurants to the smallest corner shop. Farsons’ other beers are good too – Blue Label Ale is another winner.
Kinnie – Another Maltese original and another Farsons product. First produced in 1952 as an alternative to cola drinks, it’s a soft drink with a bitter sweet flavour but quite unlike any other in the market. The recipe remains a secret but bitter oranges and a variety of aromatic herbs feature in its making. Kinnie is an acquired taste and a successful Maltese export – surprisingly it can also be purchased through Amazon!
Pastizzi – Everywhere you go in Malta you will see the inevitable shops known as Pastizzerija. There is no doubt these joints make a prime contribution for Malta’s obesity statistics. But a pastizz or two is a must. They are pea or ricotta filled pastries, served hot and dirt cheap. More popular in the cooler months. But don’t call anyone a pastizz… it’s a derogative term and wimp is the kindest of translations..
Hobz biz-zejt– The snack of choice for the summer months. Literally translates into bread with olive oil but a lot more is thrown in, tuna chunks, marinated vegetables, local tomato paste, onions, capers... The bread is invariably local and delicious. Look out (or ask) for it at any beach kiosk or working men’s’ snack bar.
Wine – Now we get to the serious stuff. Malta has produced wine forever and then some. Most of the local production used to be forgettable plonk but with the importation of cheap wines from all over the world the local producers have had to up their product. Maltese premium wine isn’t cheap, but then these are boutique wineries really and the best stuff is divine. Try Marsovin’s Grand Maitre (limited edition each year and hard to find) or Antonin (white), Meridiana’s Isis (white) or Melqart (red). I could sing these wines’ praises to high heaven and if I had a bottle handy I probably would too.
Author: Steven Bonello