The Taste of Malta
George Pandi writes for Canada's Montreal Gazette:
The arrival in the Maltese capital, Valletta, bombards the senses. Outside the town gate spreads a plaza where the intercity buses stop. The owner-drivers have adopted the custom of the fishermen who make their boats visible with bright colours: Every inch of their 1950s vintage Bedford buses is painted and chromed to blind you. The second attack is on your ears as a hundred Mediterraneans meet and greet while those big Bedfords rev their engines. Then comes the smell of frying oil from the circle of snack wagons.
I got off the bus, followed my nose to a wagon, pointed at two unfamiliar fried pastries. The first one, qassata, was a mistake. It looked like an Indian samosa and was stuffed with peas but lacked any taste. My second choice, though, imqaret, an anise-flavoured packet with date filling - a kind of date Newton - was addictively good.
I went out my first evening in Valletta to find a simple restaurant where I could explore the local cuisine. Dream on! I got cardboard fish with limp chips. Next to me, a sad man ate soggy pasta in tomato sauce with the same limp chips. Travellers on a meagre budget seem get the British culinary heritage; moneyed tourists go to elegant restaurants for world cuisine at high prices. In between there should be middle-class, home-style Maltese food, but for tourists it's hard to find..