Celebrating the Seasonal Lampuki Bliss

Lampuki is the Maltese name for the dorado or mahi-mahi, a kind of fish that migrates past the Maltese islands during the autumn and is one of the most popular, traditional autumnal Maltese dishes.

If you’re considering a trip to Malta in Octobre, you’ll probably hear the word ‘lampuki’ quite a lot. Before commencing your journey to the Maltese archipelago, make sure to acquaint yourself with the lampuki, one of Malta’s most cherished culinary treasures. Lampuki, internationally known as dorado or mahi-mahi, are commonly spotted in the waters close to Malta. This migratory fish has earned a reputation as a well-liked seasonal delicacy and may be found in Maltese waters from late Août to Décembre.

Because of its white, meaty texture and delicate flavour, lampuki is a versatile choice for seafood enthusiasts and pairs well with a variety of sauces, wines, and sides. The lampuki-catching method, known as cannizzarite, involves local fishermen building large, flat rafts made of the lowest fronds of palm trees. These rafts are deployed at sea, usually alongside modern fuel-powered vessels or vintage fishing vessels known as ‘Luzzu’. The fisherman skilfully throw nets over the lampuki when a significant group of them had congregated beneath these rafts looking for protection. This approach has endured over time, despite changes in how fish are used commercially. When the sun reaches its zenith around midday, a breathtaking panorama unfolds beneath these rafts. Lampuki congregate beneath the rafts in search of a cool hiding place. When they are 5 to 10 metres from the raft, the fishermen begin a rhythmic technique. They navigate the little traditional boats around the edge of the raft in a series of circular manoeuvres using silicone squid jigs. This approach aims to entice a catch. Captured lampuki are hung next to the boat. 

fishing boat in marsaxlokk photo credit: james bianchi

When it comes to enjoying lampuki, there are a plethora of options you can choose from. You can opt to have it at a local restaurant, particularly one in one of Malta’s southern areas like Marsaskala, Birgu, or Marsaxlokk. These restaurants typically serve freshly caught lampuki, providing a true dining experience in a relaxing seaside setting. You might also get lampuki from fishmongers or the travelling fish seller, who offers a wide selection of fresh seafood at affordable prices. Some locals enjoy lampuki in pies, while others serve it with robust sauces that are frequently garlic-flavoured. Another popular method is to gently season it and cook it in tinfoil. Additionally, it shines in dishes like an alijotta (Maltese fish soup), which is eaten with the cherished Maltese bread, sometimes referred to as ’ħobz Malti’.  Frying lampuki in tomato sauce also stands out as a typical and straightforward cooking method. The majority of local restaurants, especially those near fishing settlements, always include some type of lampuki dish on their menus.  Every family has its own variation on the traditional lampuki pie recipe. The delicate flavour of the fish is enhanced by all cooking techniques, including grilling, pan frying, and flour-dusted and fried lampuki. It’s noteworthy to underline that when American fishermen catch lampuki in the Atlantic Ocean, where it develops to enormous size, it changes into mahi-mahi.

Moreover, the arrival of lampuki also signals the transition from the summer to the autumn. The lampuki embarks on its annual migration to warmer waters. Lampuki is readily available while in season at fish market (such as in Victoria (Gozo) and Marsaxlokk (Malta) or from street vendors who go around neighbourhoods to entice the surrounding locals. 

If you make seafood a part of your diet or you would just like to explore and try different local dishes, we highly suggest you delve into Malta’s rich and diverse lampuki cuisine for a vitamin-rich and flavourful meal!