Like all the cities that, thanks to a particularly temperate climate, are lived by their inhabitants mainly in the streets, Palermo offers a great variety of street food and one of the most fun things to do there is definitely to browse and taste it.
In our “sit-and-eat” country, Palermo holds the primacy of the city with the greatest number of delicacies to enjoy while walking around and exploring the sights. Even Forbes mentions it in its list of best street food worldwide.
The most famous one is for sure U’pani ca’ meusa, with is bread sandwich with spleen (I apologize with the vegetarians and vegans that are reading but we are talking about gastronomic traditions that probably date back to some hundred years). This is a sesame bread stuffed with pieces of veal spleen, lung and trachea pre-cooked and roasted in a slow fire in pork fat, inside huge copper pans. Both the spleen and lungs are first boiled and then sliced to be fried, strictly in lard. Once ready, the inevitable question is: “single or married?”, just because it can be served (unmarried) with the simple lemon squeezed over or married, with cheese and fresh ricotta stuffing.
The taste is pretty strong, as you can easily imagine: you either like or hate it, nothing in between.
I’m perfectly aware of Nazim’s wild side and I had no doubt: he was captured on the first bite as you can see in the video.
Another famous traditional street food from Palermo is la Stigghiola that was already cooked in the ancient Sicilian Greek cities back in the days.
In the afternoon the stands start preparing the grill and the smoke rising in the sky signals the start of cooking over the coals. It definitely belongs to the poorest cooking tradition: in fact, this dish was consumed mainly by those who could not afford to buy precious meat and fish staple. It is practically a lamb or kid’s gut wrapped around a spring onion on a simple spit and then grilled.
Another preparation that you will see Nazim voluptuously biting into in the video is la Frittola, a recipe that dates back to the ‘500 hundred, obtained by frying the residues of pork, flavored with spices like Laurel, saffron, pepper. I’m often impressed by the medieval aspect of certain dishes and I tend to avoid them as if they would really pop up from another time. I do not feel that my stomach has the right enzymes to deal with certain gastronomic offers: my husband instead doesn’t suffer from these fears or suspicions. He runs confidently at the banquet, asks for the sandwich without inquiring about its origins or
nature, devours it as a vacuum cleaner does to dust in a few seconds and while he is still cleaning his jaws with a piece of oily paper he addresses me a quick glance to ask me the permission to go for seconds!
I must say though that in spite of the appearance everything tastes wonderful.
The big question is: how do they manage to manage to make presentable and appealing such unprecious parts of the animal body? How do they cook them in order to canalize their intestinal nature and turn them into such an exquisite dish? I guess nowadays we are used to clean foods cooked in no time while these dishes work exactly in the opposite way: parts that you don’t even want to talk about are cooked forever. This must be the secret.
We still should mention Pane e Panelle, a sandwich stuffed with fried chickpea flour that was invented by the Saracens who ruled the island from the 9th to the 11th century, along with Arancini di riso, fried rice balls stuffed with cheese or ragù and again lo Sfincione, a very soft focaccia covered with tomato sauce.
These are just a few of the wonderful things you can find in the street in Palermo: walking in the street market you will feel pulled from one counter to the other, attracted by the colours, the smells and the yells of the sellers who never stop teasing their customers with jokes and catcalls.
The perfect break to undertake during you’re sightseeing.
To summarize, if you are visiting Palermo, my suggestions are:
1) Forget about hygiene: the best things in life hardly take place in an aseptic environment
2) Forget about the diet: Palermo is definitely not the right spot for a calory regime
3) Forget about lunch and dinner timing: #everymomentistherightmoment!!!!