“Ideal For Anglers, Fish-Eating Lovers And Boat Trippers For Local Fisherfolk in Malta”
The month of August is with us, a signal for Malta and Gozo’s fishing community to gear up for the season which annually lasts from mid-August to October. The valuable target is the lampuka fish, a highly popular, relatively inexpensive and staple food provision for Maltese kitchens as the last of the summer months dwindle to a close.
The “El Dorado” For Local Fisherfolk In Malta
The lampuka is the Maltese name for the Yellow Fin Dorado, also known as the Mahi-Mahi in the Pacific region. It is traditionally abundant in Malta’s territorial waters but also concentrated in the Pacific and around Australia.
The Marsaxlokk Parish Priest blesses the crew of one of the fishing boats and off we go as the season opens.
It’s by no means a delicacy but has many advantages being fleshy, not intensively bony and can be cooked in each and every way whether fried, grilled, poached, made into fish cakes, used as a basic ingredient for Mediterranean Fish Soup or blended with fresh spinach in crusty pies. The early season catches of young lampuki are ideal for deep pan frying but it can later grow to enormous lengths and becomes rather “woody” but suitable for fish cakes and pies.
Fisherman with a catch of the day!
Malta’s fishing communities are located mostly in the south of the island, Marsaxlokk being the principle village, followed closely by Zurrieq and Marsascala with the Gozitan fleet being located mostly in the north at Marsalforn and Xlendi.
An amateur’s grand catch!
At this time of the year activity is highly concentrated and the season is launched by the traditional blessing of the fleet by the local parish priest, a must for the superstitious fishing folk.
The lampuka is a surface fish. The method used by local fishermen is unique and harks back to Roman times. In late July fishermen cut and gather the larger, lower fronds from palm trees and weave them into large flat rafts, providing the surface cool that a lampuki school favours particularly around mid-day to avoid the scorching sun. The fishermen stand off the rafts but within ten metres of them and begin to surround the school dragging a baited silicone squid jig line. When a lampuka is hooked it will be dragged alongside the boat. As the school swarms to surround the lure a large mesh net called a “kannizzata” is thrown over the teeming fish and hauled in.
For those with the fishing spirit in their blood, a visit to the seaside village of Marsaxlokk in the south east of Malta is a must. At this time of the year activity is endless day and night as boats land their catches and trawl out again.
The Marsaxlokk open air fish market is a magnet of fish, colours and fish recipes but particularly on Sunday mornings when the market booms with that aroma of fresh fish and customers pressing to purchase.
For the determined anglers there are two main entities that provide daily fishing trips and supply rods, reels, tackle and bait and these are:
- Aquatic Fishing Charters on a 33 foot boat that takes eight anglers
- Seabreeze Cruises Fishing Trips on a 43 foot boat and hosts six anglers
Competition amongst the professional fishermen is fierce and cut-throat and in some cases erupts into violence despite the fact that an allocation system has been used for the last 100 years whereby sectors are plotted and drawn by lots. Encroachment is not unusual, including that of local amateur fishermen who are often warned off with a rifle volley, as well as encroaching Tunisian and Sicilian fishermen.
However, the fisherfolk love to meet tourists who admire their work and will spend considerable time talking to them about their experiences of which they are proud.
Marsaxlokk open air fish market
There is an abundance of fish restaurants throughout the year and includes:
- Porticello Restaurant
- Spinola Terrace
- La Capanna
- Palazzo Preca
- Ta’ Mattew
- Tartarun (Marsaxlokk)
- Hammett’s Gastro Bar (Sliema)
- Seaview, Mġarr (Gozo)
Prebooking is essential, but mainly concentrated in Valletta.
The lampuka’s kitchen friendly attributes are a major part of its attraction. It is easy to clean and has no scales and can also be filleted easily. The early catches – when the lampuka is about a foot long – make the ideal frying dish. It is beheaded and tailed (these used to make ideal fish soup), halved, rolled in flour or semolina and then deep fried. The pieces are served topped by a light tomato salsa flavoured with garlic, capers and olives and garnished with lemon juice and fresh bay leaves. Accompanying French fries are a must.
When it grows it is again beheaded and tailed, sliced into three inch pieces which are then lightly boiled. When the pieces have cooled they are carefully filleted and mashed with pepper and salt garnishing and blended with boiled fresh spinach, garlic and sliced olives. The mash is placed in short pastry (one recipe includes the pastry being blended with red wine) and then baked as a pie.
Restaurant with a view of the harbour
FISH GLORIOUS FISH …
When the fish is at middle growth (two feet) I behead/tail and lightly poach or steam the three inch pieces, using the liquid for fish soup.
When the pieces cool these are finely filleted, placed in strips in a dish and liberally garnished with olive oil, garlic, fresh mint, pepper and salt and lemon juice and a sprinkling of white wine. Before being served these are lightly grilled and served with French fries and broccoli or boiled courgettes and lashings of fresh Maltese bread…and of course a glass or two (or maybe three!) of cool white wine…and finally topped off with a welcome siesta if it’s a lunch.
In short, Malta and Gozo are a haven for fresh fish lovers as well as for anglers.
Author Bio: Albert Fenech
BeSeeingYou In: Malta and its delicious fish availabilities
Good To Know: Highly available and not expensive
WOW! Factor: Healthy, wholesome and nutritional
TIP: Available in all restaurants and if in an apartment, easy d-i-y but have the fish cleaned by the fishmonger!
The Malta Polo Club is the second oldest in the world and was founded in 1868. The world’s oldest club still in