The Palermo street food culture is one of the strongest in Europe. Forbes magazine ranked it among the top 10 in the world while Virtual Tourist has ranked the city at the 5th place among the best street food producers in the world.
You’ll see many vendors and stalls as you walk through the streets where the food is cooked fresh right on the spot. The vendors work with a sort of cart, usually made of metal, to carry their kitchen – which consists of a simple grill and some copper pans – around with them.
Thanks to these street chefs you will have the opportunity to taste arancine, crocchè, panelle and much more. Enjoy the reading and, if you also want to enjoy the flavour, you just have to contact us to book your Palermo’s street food experience by Moto Ape.
Let’s start with her majesty the Arancina: a delicious fried ball made of rice!
It is said that an illustrious Sicilian by adoption thought of breading as a simple but brilliant technique to preserve the delicious rice and transport it for a long time during hunting and diplomatic missions. Frederick II of Svevia, in love with Palermo – forced to war and travel – always traveled with the faithful crispy arancina in tow.
This cornerstone of Palermo’s street food divides Sicilians between those who prefer arancina “accarne” and those who prefer arancina “abburro”, those who call it arancino (not us!) and those who call her feminine. But let’s get in order!
The arancina “accarne” is made with ragù (meat sauce) while the arancina “abburro” is made with butter, mozzarella and ham and has a slightly longer shape. Although these are the traditional variants, today – walking through the streets – you will find many diverse combinations you can choose, and when you have made your decision on which to taste remember that if you are in western Sicily the arancina is female, if you are in the eastern part, then it will be called arancino.
Pane, panelle e crocchè
Panino con le panelle is made of crisp fried chickpea fritters on soft sesame-seeded buns which can be a Mafalda – named after Mafalda di Savoia – is the crunchiest bread, a Scaletta – that has the shape of a snake – or a Focaccia – also called Vastidda in sicilian – a round sandwich enriched with sesame seeds.
According to tradition, you can also add fried potato crocchè (croquettes). This is a great street food for vegan people too!
In some places (the most traditional ones) you can also find the «rascatura», that is the leftovers of panelle and crocchè (just to make sure you don’t throw anything good away!).
Pane con la milza (pani ca meusa)
The origin of this dish dates back to the Middle Ages, when the Jews of Palermo – engaged in the slaughter of meat – kept as a reward the entrails that they sold as a filling along with bread and cheese. The consumption of entrails, particularly widespread in Palermo, is typical of those communities where, to the consumption of meat due to the presence of noble families, corresponded to a use of the waste of the slaughter by the poor people.
The bread comes in fact filled with spleen of veal and – unlike panelle – pane con la milza can’t really be eaten without the bread because of its strong flavor. It comes in two versions: “schietta”, which means single and only contains the above-mentioned ingredients or “maritata” (married) with flakes of ricotta cheese on top.
Again a legend which traces back to the life of monasteries, as we saw in our article about Sicilian Sweets: they are the nuns of the monastery of San Vito who gave life to the soft sfincione. Their intent was to create a rich dish for the holidays with the few poor ingredients they had. Thus starting from flour, water and tomato sauce, they created the first prototype of sfincione, partially modified over time, while maintaining the typical singularities.
Sfincione is made with a thick, sponge-like dough that is similar to focaccia and pizza and can be seasoned with salted anchovies, onion, caciocavallo cheese and oil. In the typical Palermo version it comes with tomato sauce too, and it’s not over yet… On top of the sauce and cheese, it has a layer of breadcrumbs!