time to explore with esplora
Eating our way through Rabat
Few things in the world give the team at Oh My Malta more joy than tasting our way through Maltese towns, sampling the best of what local eateries have to offer. Despite Malta being a travel destination favourite, primarily during the summer months, the colder months should definitely not be disregarded. Our winters are mild, to say the least, with average temperatures of 16 degrees Celcius during the coldest months.
Footage: James Bianchi
The fact that you are able to venture out into the streets in the middle of winter, with little more than jeans, a light jacket and maybe a scarf, makes the Maltese Islands truly unique. So we did just that. We grabbed our jackets, cameras, and some antacid tablets and we were on our way.
We arrived in Rabat, the suburb of Malta’s old capital city of Mdina, with smiles on our faces and rumbles in our stomachs. First stop: pastizzi and a bottle of Kinnie.
If you’re currently visiting the islands or thinking about it, you have, without a doubt, come across the word pastizzi. In case you’re the only person who hasn’t, here’s a little explainer. Pastizzi (singular: pastizz) are traditional savoury pastries, that are usually filled to the brim with ricotta cheese or mushy peas. Just a little tip: pastizzi tal-irkotta refer to the former and pastizzi tal-piżelli refer to the latter. They’re flaky, they’re delectable, they’re a must-taste if you’re visiting (or for any other reason, really).
We made our way to a restaurant called Peristyle, just a stone’s throw away from Domvs Romana, the oldest purpose-built archeological museum on the island. We were granted special access to the kitchen, to observe the meticulous pastizzi making process.
We then walked a few metres up the road to the well-known and well-loved Serkin, also commonly referred to as Crystal palace. Is-Serkin has been serving hot pastizzi and te fit-tazza (tea in a glass) for over 75 years. We washed the pastizzi down with an ice cold bottle of Kinnie, a bittersweet fizzy drink, brewed from bitter oranges and wormwood extracts and a can of Cisk Lager, a golden-coloured, bottom-fermented lager with a distinctive, full-bodied taste.
Up next: traditional Maltese rabbit. Truth be told, no local food tour is complete without at least a little taste of rabbit. Back at peristyle, we excitedly ordered the fried rabbit dish, which was served with huge portions of crispy, delicious fries and side salads, as well as fresh Maltese bread (perfect for dipping into the remaining gravy).
Rich, tasty, fall-off-the-bone tender. What more could you possibly ask of a rabbit dish?
We weren’t done yet, however! We made our way to Ta’ Doni, to check yet another local delicacy off our expansive list. We took our seats on their pretty patio and took a well-deserved break from feasting… by ordering a local hand-crafted brew, of course.
Ice-cold Ta’ Lela beers were delivered to our tables, alongside a traditional ftira biż-żejt. For those who aren’t in the know, a ftira is essentially a ring-shaped leavened Maltese bread. The biż-żejt part, on the other hand, can be translated to ‘with oil’. However, a traditional ftira (or ħobż) biż-żejt, traditionally includes goods quality olive oil and tomato paste, fresh tomatoes, capers, olives, chopped onions, garlic, tuna and sea salt and pepper. Ta’ Doni’s version also included sun-dried tomatoes, basil and mint tapenade, and rucola leaves.
Just to make absolutely sure that we wouldn’t be leaving anything out, we thought it best to also order a traditional Maltese platter.
Ta’ Doni left no stone unturned in the world of Maltese delicacies, as they rolled out their dish, which was absolutely covered in delicious fresh, local produce, which even made passersby stop and stare. Fresh Maltese sausage, black olives, sliced tomatoes, onions and rucola, alongside two delicious local dips and galletti (water biscuits), which you will undoubtedly come across during your stay: Bigilla and Arjoli.
The former forms a staple part of any Maltese diet and is made out of broad beans or tic beans, known as ful ta’ ġirba. The latter, on the other hand, is made from tuna, anchovies, garlic and onion. You thought that was all? Think again. The platter also featured fresh ġbejna, both fresh and pepper cured.
Both dishes went down a treat but we weren’t quite done yet. It would be absolutely madness to head home without dessert, right? Right. We decided to go for a little stroll through the narrow, picturesque streets of Rabat to our next location, in a feeble attempt to burn off at least a couple of calories.
We made it to Santa Lucia, a cafe known for their exceptional artisan quality sweets and pastries. Without a second of hesitation, we ordered a couple of imqaret, as well as a slice of pudina tal-ħobż.
The imqaret, traditional date-filled Maltese sweets with Arabic origins were served warm and with a drizzle of honey, alongside a thick slice of pudina, also referred to as bread pudding, which is made with a large stale loaf of Maltese bread, sultanas, cocoa powder, cinnamon and orange rind.
Don’t let the word ‘stale’ throw you off, though. I cannot describe just how delicious and fulfilling the delicacy is, you’re just going to have to trust me and try it out for yourself.
We bid our goodbyes and made our way to our final stop: Parruċċan Confectionary. Situated on the iconic square in Rabat, opposite the Basilica of St Paul, a stunning Roman Catholic Church, you’ll find the bright white and pink signage, as well as a beaming Maltese man, ready and willing to not only serve you the delicacies of your dreams, but passionately describe each and every one, too.
The confectionary has shelves upon shelves of traditional Maltese sweets, ranging from honey rings (Qagħaq tal-għasel) to brittle nougat bars to fruit tarts and kannoli. Naturally, we ordered one of everything, convincing ourselves that we would at least wait till later that evening to consume them, and made our way home.
With smiles from ear to ear and our bellies full and satisfied, we couldn’t help but sneak a little piece of nougat into our mouths, as we called it a day.