The Palermo Street Food Tour
I've recently arrived back from Palermo, a small but vibrant city in the North of Sicily and I must confess to you all that I am pregnant. Pregnant with a food baby that is; and this food baby was worth every mouthful too. Now that I am no longer a Street Food Tour virgin (pardon the pun here) I cannot wait to try Street Food Tours in other countries. I researched Food and Drink related activities in Palermo before our departure and found the current favourite on Trip Advisor was a company called Palermo Street Food.
The website looked very inviting so I sent them an email letting them know that I was interested in booking a tour. Within 45 minutes I had a friendly response from Dani and shortly after we had agreed that Friday was a good day to do the Street Food Market Tour. The founder, Salvatore, emailed me to introduce himself and asked if I needed any recommendations for our trip. One of them, Ferro di Cavallo, became a real favourite for my friend and I during our trip.
Our tour was on a Friday night at 7.30pm in front of the Massimo Teatro Opera House. Our guide Salvatore, was there to meet us and we had a fantastic evening learning about the history and importance of Street Food in Italy.
I am proud to say that I tried absolutely everything (very willingly) and loved every moment. I didn't want it to end, but as they say, all good things come to an end eventually, and also because I couldn't eat any more!
I am very passionate about the freshness, goodness and quality of food and Palermo offered nothing but all of these things and more. Sicilians use very simple rules for cooking; they believe in fresh sicilianlemon for flavouring, salt and more often than I expected, pork fat for glazing and cooking. I loved the stories behind each dish; recipes created for preservation, survival, to please royalty. These food items may shock you but they are all traditional ingredients that make up the mediterranean Street Food menu and Palermo Street Food have ensured that each vendor that they take their customers to, is safe and prepare and cook their food with the correct health and hygiene standards. I'm going to show you the foods that I tried during out tour.
1. Stigghiola - Goat's Intestines
Stigghiola are guts that are most often from a lamb, but chicken or goats' are also a popular choice. The guts/intestines are washed in water and salt and are sometimes stuffed with parsley or wrapped around a leek. They have always been easy to prepare and represent a key staple item in the affordable menu that would serve the poorer population of Palermo since the 1800s.
Arancini are stuffed rice balls that originate from the 10th century during the Arab rule in Sicily. Salvo explained to us that the arancini were created for preservation purposes. Long ago, chefs were always looking for ways to preserve their food as it would easily go off. The breadcrumbs preserved the rice, and then the rice preserves the ragù. It was very filling, even as a half but perfect comfort food.
3. Polpo (Octopus)
Fresh octopus has always been a staple component of the mediterranean seafood diet. In Sicily, it is boiled and served with salt and lemon. The brain is also sweet and full of nutrients and I was told by one of the locals that the brains are the equivalent to our drunk night kebabs! Here is a fantastic link to PANEDOLCEALCIOCCOLATO's blog about octopuses.
4. Gamberi (Prawns)
We ate these bad boys at a local bar with a fantastic glass of Catarratto Sicilian white and had no shame picking them apart head first, then the legs with our hands whilst standing at the bar.
5. Gelato (Ice Cream)
Traditional Italian Gelato is not your every day Ben and Jerry's. It is made from fruit mixes and nut purées and can be made with milk, or cream and sugar. It is lower in calories than regular ice cream and my sweet-toothed friend made no compromises to her choices with the flavours that were on offer here! We had pistachio, vanilla and chocolate.
6. Pani 'ca meusa (Lung and Spleen Sandwich)
This gastronomic beauty may seem a little terrifying by the sound of it but believe it me was one of the best things I have ever tasted. A quiet vendor (below) sits by the side of the road with his boiler late at night and sells these. The cook has been featured in magazines and is a recognisable face to Palermo's foodie public. The cow's lung and spleen sandwich has been a popular fast-food treat since the 1800's and after a glass of lovely Catarratto wine, any sense of squeamishness had gone out the window.
A local street vendor who has been selling these famous treats for years for over a decade.
Cannoli are Sicilian Pastry Desserts. The fried dough shell is light, hard and crunchy but the inside is soft and sweet and melts in your mouth. The cannolo in a lovely café was the last taster of the evening; I could just about fit this in. At the end of the tour, I had decided that the Lung and Spleen Sandwich along with the Prawns were my favourite.
I wrote a review for PSF on TripAdvisor here. To find out more about the tour, check them out on their: Facebook page Twitter Page Website