Catch the Flavour: Everything I ate in Sicily
Disclaimer: I wouldn’t describe myself as a foodie but I do love a good meal.
Last month I was lucky enough to get down to the food capital of Italy, Palermo
Disclaimer 2: I do not mean to offend by suggesting all of the best dishes are in Sicily but…. It seems pretty true to me.
It was my first time in the South of Italy, despite having lived here for almost 2 years. Italian food is very good of course but I was very excited to try a different style of cuisine to the Northern one that I am used to .
I started off my food journey with one of Italy’s most famous exports: Arancina (or Arancini if you do not live in Palermo) First, the issue surrounding the name of this wonderful dish is most like the Scone Vs. Scone argument in the UK. We debate whether or not it should rhyme with ‘Cone’ or ‘Con’ and it also depends on if you are from the North or the South, among many other factors. In Sicily, the big debate: Is it Arancina or Arancino, Masculine or feminine and depends on if you live on the east or west coast. I settled on Arancina because I think it is slightly easier to say and as we say ‘When in Rome do as the Romans do'. Arancina for those who haven’t tried this tasty carb-filled wonder; is similar to Japanese onigiri in the fact that it is a ball of rice with filling inside, meat, ragù sauce, prosciutto and cheeses, the variations are endless. This is then deep fried in a crispy batter and served hot. It is SO delicious. I wasn’t expecting to like Arancina that much. I had tried one in Venice and it was so underwhelming that I had even forgotten I had tried it before. In Palermo, the combination of gooey fragrant rice and fresh crispy batter is absolutely unbeatable. As soon as you land in Palermo I urge you to find the nearest shop selling these and devour as many as you can in one sitting.
The second thing that is worth noting is Granita. The translation for Granita is smoothie in English so you can imagine I wasn’t expecting anything special. Granita was described to me as being very delicious but as the UK has our fair share of cafes which serve the most delectable smoothies, I thought it would be hard to top some of the delcious variations I had tried at home. Granita however, was delicious. It was a little breezy when I was there. The temperature hovered around 20 degrees on a good day but I still decided to give it a try. The classic flavour is lemon but I wasn’t interesting in trying it. I decided to try a pistacchio one, since I had a sample earlier in the day and was craving it. I also tried Almond which was also fabulous, even though I am not a fan of almond. Eventually I did try the lemon and it was actually great. Though I definitely would recommend it to cool down on a boiling hot day.
Although they are delicious I will admit I do have an issue eating Octopus. It’s not just because I think they are killed in a cruel way. I am actually very fond of their multi-legged counterpart squid. I guess it’s the thickness of their legs and their heads that freak me out. I absolutely avoided eating octopus in South Korea unless it was just the legs. I went to Ballarò, one of the famous markets in Palermo. I had not yet even reached 11 am and an overzealous street vendor was selling sauteed Octopus diced into bite-able chunks sprinkled with lemon juice and parsley. It was like the food of Montalbano dreams. It looked so appetising that despite the weather and the time of day I absolutely had to grab a plate. It was indeed delicious. That moment confirmed my suspicions that I was going to enjoy eating in Palermo far more than I ever had in Venice.
A few friends had recommended I tried an Ice cream Sandwich. I absolutely couldn’t miss this. It was two scoops of ice cream between mouthwatering brioche. So delicious. I personally chose the salted pistachio ice cream flavour for a little savoury kick in mine.
To me Panelle or Farinata as it’s known up here in the North of Italy, is truly what dreams are made of. I am so obsessed with pancakes that a pancake in any form can hold my attention. When I arrived here in Venice I tried homemade Farinata and it was heavenly. It is complicated to make (I don’t have an oven) and is difficult to find here so imagine my surprise and excitement to find out it existed down in Palermo under a different name. Panelle is made of from chickpea flour and is fried (much like many other things in the South). And can be served in a sort of Pizza form or put into a sandwich.
Finally how could I not mention Cannoli, the darling of Italian desserts. A hard shell of fried pastry filled with sweet ricotta and sprinked with choclate, pistacchio, candied fruit, in short, anything you would like. It never appealed to me to try a Cannoli before in North Italy. I understood that North Italy is not famous for this and therefore it probably would not taste particularly special. So, can you imagine after living here for 2 years!!! I had my first Cannolo in Sicily. And I really do not regret that. To eat such a dessert in it’s place of origin meant I got the most delicious introduction. I now am well and truly a fan.
If you go to the South of Italy you must eat EVERYTHING you see. South Italian dishes are while often, deep fried and unhealthy, among the tastiest cuisine you can experience here. Next time you are in Sicily, be sure to try these!