Food Culture and Tradition

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Meals, Customs and Foods Commonly Used in Malta



Maltese restaurants, snack bars, coffee shops, and street vendors satisfy the taste whims of most tourists, but the Maltese prefer to eat hearty simple, well-seasoned food at home. Breakfast for most is a small light meal of bread and cheese, honey and ham accompanied by coffee and milk. If that seems a light beginning for the day a snack of tea or coffee and pastizzi around eleven will hold any Maltese till lunchtime.

Maltese homemakers begin early in the morning to prepare the ingredients and simmer their soups over small petrol stoves. Soup for lunch is a tradition broken only by the laborer who cannot get home for the meal. Then a bundle of hobz biz-zejt (bread rubbed with tomatoes, drizzled with oil and seasonings, and topped with garlic, sliced onions, and herbs) and a glass of wine will ease their hunger till evening, when a hot meal – probably a pasta dish or a meat and vegetable stew – will be savored.

Homemakers, businesspeople, laborers and children all stop their day’s routine for a short break at four for tea and small cookies. The tea break is especially important for those who customarily take their evening meal between nine and ten. Villagers usually have a light evening meal at around seven.

Regardless of the meal, in Malta men are served first, and they usually receive the largest and choicest portions. But Maltese meal service is generally pleasantly casual; enjoying food takes precedence over formal manners. Thus there are no frowns when succulent bones are eaten with the fingers.


The foods of the Maltese table are simple and satisfying. Unquestionably, many dishes can trace their origins to foods introduced by historic invaders: Greeks, Romans, Arabs, French, and British. The latter left a taste for beer, mutton, lamb, turkey, Christmas pudding, and probably also the custom of a “roast joint with potatoes” for Sunday dinner. Crunchy Maltese sourdough bread and Rikotta cheese are certainly staples but these are well rounded with hearty soups, stews, and pasta dishes that deftly spin out the flavors of meats and fish. Vegetables are preferred cooked; salads are few and usually seasonal. Local fruits are relished as snacks or desserts but are expensive. Wine is the commonest beverage and knows no age limit.

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