Here Comes the ‘Bigilla’ Van

Maltese Tradition

Peter is not your typical door-to-door salesman. He is doing his part to keep an old Maltese tradition alive. Selling our traditional 'bigilla' from the back of his food cart.

‘Bigilla’ is a traditional Maltese bean dip. Some might consider it as our local version of hummus. While hummus is made with mashed chickpeas, ‘Bigilla’ as we know it, is made with broad beans (aka fava beans) and tic beans (aka djerba beans).

The trick to a great bigilla is in how much you season it. It all depends on how much garlic, chilli, and salt you use. The more you hesitate, the more bland the bigilla will be. Therefore take it from us and don’t be afraid to load it up.

The Maltese love ‘bigilla’. It is a staple dip used in bars as a condiment to compliment with drinks like an ice-cold beer. Therefore you might understand why it is important to over season the ‘bigilla’. The more you devour it, the more you find satisfaction in gulping down your beer.

The following story is a rare sight nowadays. Peter is maintaining an old tradition by selling ‘bigilla’ like a food truck door-to-door. Households purchase the ‘bigilla’ by the gram. Nice and warm. Perfect to compliment a nice Mediterranean lunch.

“We are known as tal-bigilla (broad bean dip). I started this work when I was 12 years old so it has been more than 30 years. My father used to sell bigilla and I always used used to accompany  him. We used a cart at the time. Then he had set up a cart for me too. I had stated selling bigilla in Qormi. Nowadays I go around with a van around approximately 12 villages, week after week, according to the day. Only my brother and I have survived selling bigilla door to door.

Bigilla is made with broad beans, garlic and herbs – I follow my father’s recipe. It takes me about 4 hours to prepare the van so that in the afternoon I go around with fresh bigilla made daily. That is why people buy from me because they appreciate a daily fresh product, not packaged with preservatives. People who expect fresh buy from me.

Although bigilla is part of the Maltese diet it originated from Egypt and entered our shores through Arab culture. In fact Egyptians use a lot of bigilla and you find quite a number of sellers like me.  It is mostly consumed with bread and galletti (water biscuits) and sometimes it is used to stuff artichokes.

Apart from bigilla I also provide homemade felfel and other traditional Maltese delicacies like cod or anchovy sfineg  (fried puffs of pastry).

The best part of it is that you get to meet a lot of different people and you are not stuck in one place behind a counter. I have regular customers who wait for me week after week and others who see me going through the streets and stop, buy and leave. Tourists, especially in summer when I am in Rabat, stop to enquire what it is and buy some to try it” – Peter Sacco

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