Veganism and vegetarianism are taking over, but if there’s one thing that’s synonymous with food in Malta, it’s wedding season, and more and more couples are looking for meatless options for their special day.
Lovin Malta contacted The Sixth Leaf, who recently hosted a massive wedding that served mostly vegan and vegetarian food to find out if this eco-friendly, animal-free option could become the norm in Malta.
However, the owners quickly realized that there were major challenges for the vegan industry in Malta and were looking at ways the rest of us could incorporate this into our lifestyles a bit more.
July’s wedding was a resounding success in itself, with the chefs serving up delicious dishes that catered to several different dietary needs.
It wasn’t a small menu either, with The Sixth Leaf featuring 33 dishes, including 19 vegan, 10 vegetarian, two pescatarians and only one dish including meat.
Here are some of their great vegan and vegetarian items:
1. Goat Cheese and Purple Yam Parfait, and Pickled Pumpkin Roses stuffed with Spiced Matcha Green Tea and Avocado Mousse topped with Micro Amaranth.
2. Beet cannoli with smoked pepper puree and cheese cracker, and pecan and brandy pâté with red currant chutney.
3. Poached mango nigiri with spicy avocado mousse and hibiscus salt, and smoked carrot falafel with basil hummus and edible flowers.
The menu was colorful with extraordinarily creative items that sound and look delicious. Still, talking about the creative process, the owners admitted that it wasn’t all fun and games.
“The experimentation process is constant fighting and arguing – there are a lot of feelings involved. But once we have the final product, it’s all worth it,” Penka said.
“If you don’t go through all of those feelings and emotions, you won’t get that end product that makes you proud. It makes us appreciate the product much more,” said Waleed Bayumi, Penka’s husband and co-owner of the restaurant.
When asked about creating the wedding menu, they explained that it involved many different factors.
“We created the menu out of nowhere, that’s how we always create new dishes – just using our sick minds,” Penka joked.
“We have used some items from previous menus since we change them every four to six weeks depending on the season. However, the new articles were only the product of brainstorming, research and discussions with our customers. We love it,” Waleed explained.
Despite their admirable passion, the couple admitted that the process came with some challenges.
“At the moment there is a shortage of staff and there are even fewer staff who are educated on different food preferences, intolerances and allergies. This makes the process much more difficult for us.
“We understand what we need to do and we are well prepared, however, the difficulty comes from the logistics of the products – there is a very small market for vegan products in Malta. It is very difficult to find new places or new suppliers who sell some of the products that we need.
“In fact, we are currently suffering from the lack of availability of many cereals which are one of the main components of these diets. And we’re not talking about the usual cereals like rice, we’re talking about cereals that are very common in other countries but impossible to find around here. However, when there is a will, there is a way,” Penka continued.
They further explained that even though there is a slight difference in price, it wouldn’t be much more expensive to finance a vegan wedding.
“To be honest, there are still many products that are more expensive than normal products, especially since we still have to pay VAT on some of these items, such as soy milk.”
“In general, if there are dishes that are more expensive, there are others that cost the same price as traditional dishes. Let’s say a vegan caterer at a wedding can cost around 10% more than a traditional caterer.
Overall, the couple are very passionate about veganism, vegetarianism and a healthy and sustainable lifestyle in general.
In fact, they won Best Healthy Restaurant of the Year at the Malta Business Awards.
They also made sure that none of their items at the wedding were plastic free, be it cases or cutlery. This is something they also practice in their establishment.
Unfortunately, due to lack of demand in Malta, they had to change their outlook and include meat and fish dishes on their menu at The Sixth Leaf.
However, they hope that over time Malta will adapt to a more vegan lifestyle and that they can return to their original dream.
They explained that the best way to do this would be through education. Citizens should know the pros and cons of all types of diets and be encouraged to step out of their comfort zone just like other leaders.
Of course, there is a great responsibility when it comes to serving people with different dietary preferences, establishments need to be well researched and educated about the different diets to ensure the best quality.
Ultimately, their final message was don’t hit it until you tried it. Vegan food is not just ordinary salads and vegetables, there is a world of flavors that can be discovered if you just explore less conventional menus.
The duo take great pride and joy in their work, and speaking with them we can tell that they are constantly creating and experimenting with new ideas and flavors to bring their customers the best products possible.
So if you feel like stepping out of your comfort zone a bit, go check out The Sixth Leaf – they have plenty of options that will make you happy and satisfied.
Would you be interested in a vegan wedding?