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Baked pasta is all the rage and, just like in Italy, is served as a starter in many of Malta’s restaurants. Embrace the carbs when you tuck into a generous serving of local speciality imqarrun il-forn – pasta layered with bolognese sauce, minced meat, eggs and cheese. Timpana is a variation on this homespun dish, encased in light golden pastry.
Malta’s most popular meat is rabbit (fenek), which you’ll find cooked in a multitude of ways at Malta’s restaurants. Once considered ‘the beef of the lower classes’, it is traditionally enjoyed as part of a fenkata – a special outing in Malta where family and friends get together to enjoy rabbit stew and free-flowing wine.
If you’re struggling to decide where to eat in Malta, United Bar (Triq il-Maghkuba) in Mgarr does an excellent rabbit dish.
Despite an abundance of supermarkets stocked with imported food in Malta, the islands’ rich and fertile soil means native ingredients are still considered the best. Malta’s best places to source seasonal foods are its traditional markets where you’ll see Maltese housewives deftly picking their produce from among the shining rows of fruits and vegetables.
Dining in Malta is typically unfussy and if you get the chance you should try widow’s stew (soppa tal-armla) – a simple yet deliciously rich tomato soup laden with carrots, potatoes, beans, peas and cauliflower. Seafood fans should also try dorado (lampuki). This shimmering, silver fish is caught between September and November and has been enjoyed in Malta since Roman times.
Enjoy it shallow-fried, oven-baked or made into a steaming pie stuffed with cauliflower, spinach and olives (torta tal lampuki).
Dining in Malta isn’t always about seeking out restaurants. Puff pastries (pastizzi) are a big hit in Malta and can be grabbed from almost any bakery or café as a tasty snack. They come filled with everything from salty ricotta cheese to mushy yellow peas and have the honour of being baked in their own special oven.
Crystal Palace (Triq San Pawl) in Rabat is particularly famous for its pastizzi, and – as it’s open 24 hours a day – enjoys a brisk trade amongst late-night revellers.