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Wednesday
Apr032013

The Food of Malta

 

Just a few months ago I returned from living in Malta, a small island country south of Italy. The country itself is a mishmash of Turkish, Greek, Italian, African, Middle Eastern…well, you name it. The language has apostrophes, the letter “X” near other impossible letters, and tiny symbols indicating pronunciation to those who know. It sounds like a cross between Italian and Arabic.


Needless to say, like the language, the food is its own. The Malta Tourism Authority brought us on several specialty tours around the island so we could learn about the culture, food, and history. It is heavily influenced by Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, but has a separate identity. Little corner shops sell Maltese specialties like pastizzi (leafed phyllo around peas, cheese, or combos), pizza (square pieces which have cheese and olives, hot dogs and eggs, or combos), date-filled pastries, and more.


There were a lot of specialties, though few blew my mind. The place is known for fresh fish (lampuki), fried rabbit, stew, horse, and a few other specialties. Ftira, a thick and doughy pizza-like creation, is served with unique toppings—pork belly and ricotta, for instance.


Honey is special over here, and one treat—honey-soaked fried ricotta balls—was particularly memorable. Pizza isn’t great, though it is cheap. Pastas are widely available, and yogurt—yes, yogurt—is delicious here, coming in flavors such as milk chocolate, fig, and lemon squeeze. Delicious! Food is much cheaper here than it is in mainland Europe, but the dishes themselves don’t leave much to be craved. An adventure? Sure. And no, I won’t soon forget the curried snails I had. Mmm-mmm good!