Our Sicilian Street Food Tour, Palermo
Thursday 15th September, Palermo Sicily
I’d read on the web about a street food tour of Palermo, so I contacted them, and they had one scheduled for today. So Heather and I joined 8 others for a walking tour of Palermo to sample the unique street food of the city and Sicily.
Sicilian street food has influences from all of the conquerors and inhabitants of the last 2700 years...Greek, Norman, Roman, Arab.
From 10.30 till 2pm, guided by Marco a local Palermitano , we walked for about 4km through the markets and alleys of Palermo and tried many different street foods. (You could wander around and try most of this food yourself, but its better to use someone knowledgeable, as you are very unlikely to locate the best places on your own.)
First stop was near the Capo Market for Frittoli:
These are the left over’s from the bones of pigs and cattle..Basically cartilage from bones which have been boiled for ever, then fried with various herbs and spices. Tasted much better than it looked. Me 1..Heather 0
(Rick Stein visited this same stall last week and will be on a BBC TV programme in December with Marco our guide..best we look out for it)
Next stop was in the midst of the Capo market at a small shop called Frigittoria Gastronomeria , a family owned shop where Mamma and Daughter make delicious Arancini, Panelle and Cazzilli:
Panelle are Chickpea pancakes and Cazzilli fried potato balls with mint. Very tasty!
Arancini are deep fried rice balls stuffed with all sorts of goodies...ours had some pork mince, carrots and peas. Crisp on the outside and extraordinarily delicious on the inside. Most have tomato based filling and the rice is then reddish inside, but the genuine Arancini from this shop is pale yellow inside and flavoured with saffron as per the original method of the Arab times.
While we were devouring these, Marco told us about Carob, Dried Oregano and Capers...both the seed and the flower which is the part that we normally see in jars at the supermarket.
Within the market there was a vast amount of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables and meat. Each fish stall had a large fish on display as a high point; usually part of a marlin.They will clean and fillet any fish while you wait, and will also prepare it ready for a meal...including vegetables from a neighbouring stall. For BBQ they often use mackerel..its a shame its used mainly for bait in NZ. The meat stalls were making delicious looking pork sausages...most of which are flavoured with fennel.
Fruit in the markets is nearly all locally grown. There were large round aubergines, and long thin Zucchini..about 1 metre long. Quite unusual.
Next stop was at a small hand-cart to try Sfincione:
Sfincione basically means ‘thick sponge” and it is a bread like very light and fluffy base, with a topping of just onion sauce and tomatoes. Very nice...
Then a short walk to a bar called Taverna Azzurro (Blue Tavern) for a taste of local aperitifs called something like Zibibbo, Marsala, Sangue, We had Marsala which was like a sweet sherry. Very nice.
The Taverna also served wine from old coke bottles...which is apparently the very cheapest of nasty wine, which they then top up with an inch of coke. Not for me thanks...
Schiticchio: This is where NZ has it a bit wrong. We have restaurants licensed for BYO wine; in Sicily it is BYO food. Far better idea. In the bar there are tables and a bar area where you can bring your own bread, cheese, olives and whatever, and then just buy your drinks. Very sensible.
It was then a short walk to the next deliciousness. A man with a handcart and a big pan in which he was cooking spleen. This is Pane ca Meuse..or Spleen Sandwich. Didn't look at all good or tasty, but it was actually very nice. Me 1, Heather 0!
(The spleen is like the liver but a blood filter....I’m not sure what happens to it in NZ, but from Google it seems it will be found in more than a few sausages.) Finally, the last stop...for dessert! Granita and Gelato. We stopped at one of the oldest places in Palermo, where you can by Ice Cream in a cone, in a paper cup, or in a bread roll...called brioche con gelato which is simply a brioche bun stuffed with a dollops of ice cream. In Sicily I’d think it might pass as breakfast! I chose the brioche with banana ice cream; Heather had a small cup of strawberry ice cream. I could get used to the ice cream in the bread roll…you eat the excess ice cream with the plastic spoon, then just squeeze the remaining ice cream out, and then eat the bun.
After our 3.5 hours we were full to overflowing with all of this good stuff. Marco is an amazing guide. He knows most that there is to know about Palermo, its people and history, knows most folks in the markets by name…(who all seem to be called Guiseppe or something similar) and definitely knows where the best street food is. And as a bonus, Marco and his partner Glenda will help you out with travel info advice, restaurant recommendations and bookings.