Bizarre Foods of Sicily
Every food culture has its hidden gems, that bizarre foods that may sound and taste entirely normal to the people that belong to that place, but that in fact may sound disgusting in the rest of the world!
Sicily, with its several influences coming from all the previous colonization, is not exempted from having some very unique food on the menu, and some of them are only for the braves! The famous show “Bizarre Food”, conducted by former chef Andrew Zimmermann has focused an entire episode to the most curious foods that you can find in Sicily – You can watch the entire episode at the bottom of this page!
What can you expect from the most extreme of the Sicilian Foods? Cow stomach soup, mystery meat soup, beef spleen sandwich, sardine meatballs, gourmet cow’s mouth, fried, roasted, marinated, and artichoke frittata, artichoke gelato on a bun, rabbit, tuna heart and sperm, cuttlefish eggs, horse meatballs, and pasta with octopus ink, sea snails, and sea urchins.
The art of the Street Food
A very good number of this bizarre foods are indeed part of the Street Food Culture of Sicily, where the largest exponents are probably from the Palermo area, in the West part of the Island. We’re talking indeed of the “Pane Ca Meusa” and the “Stigghiole”.
Are those words sounding familiar to you? That’s entirely normal. Pane Ca Meusa is the King of the Sicilian Street food. What is the “Pane Ca Meusa”? Quoting Wikipedia:
Pani ca meusa (Sicilian: pani câ mèusa) is a Sicilianstreet food. Literally, its name means “bread with spleen”; its Italian name is panino con la milza. It is a dish exclusively typical of Palermo and it consists of a soft bread (locally called vastedda or vastella) flavoured with sesame, stuffed with chopped veal’s lung and spleen that have been boiled and then fried in lard. Caciocavallo or ricotta may also be added, in which case the pani ca meusa is called (Sicilian) maritatu (“married”), if served without cheese, it is called (Sicilian) schettu (“single”).
Not impressed yet? Let’s see what Wikipedia says about “Stigghiole”:
The stigghiola (plural: stigghiole, also known as stigghiuola) is a Sicilian food specialty, typical of the streets of the city of Palermo, and maybe the king on the bizarre foods. It consists of guts (usually of lamb, but also of goat or chicken) which are washed in water and salt, seasoned with parsley and often with onion and other pot herbs, then stuck on a skewer or rolled around a leek, and finally cooked directly on the grill. The dish is generally prepared and sold as a street food. In Ragusa the dish is baked in a casserole and it is known as turciniuna.
Is that not enough? Wow, you guys are brave for sure! Let’s talk about Frittola and Quarume, other bizarre foods from Palermo!
Frittula (frittola in Italy) is a traditional Sicilian street food from Palermo. It is similar to the frìttuli from Calabria, but seems to use calf parts instead of pig.
The waste left from the slaughter of mechanically processed calves includes bones that are ground for industrial use, and pieces of meat boiled at high temperature in large silos. After the meat is cooked it is pressed to remove moisture and formed into bales. This process, similar to lyophilization (freeze drying), can preserve the frittoli for years.
The “frittularu” “revives” the frittoli by frying it with lard and placing it in a large wicker basket (the “panaru”) and a cloth of flavorings such as bay leaf, and pepper. It is served by hand and placed on a sheet of waxed paper or in a bun or focaccia.
Frittola was once transported by donkey, but is now sold from three-wheeled vans. One author describes the dish as “oil fried fat and cartilage”
Caldume (Italian) or quarumi (Sicilian) is a Sicilian dish of veal tripe stewed with vegetables, served as a street food in Palermo and Catania.
All parts of the tripe (rumen, omasum, abomasum) as well as the duodenum are stewed with carrots, parsley, tomato, and onion. It is served hot, with salt, pepper, oil, and lemon. Vendors of quarumi, called quarumaru, are often found in the public markets.
Bizarre Foods, Bizarre Restaurants
But bizarre foods are not an exclusive prerogative of the Street food (that still, is predominant) and that type of “poor cuisine”. You can easily find some of those dishes in the menus of very exclusive and fancy restaurants. We’re talking about restaurants that serve fresh fish: you can find tuna heart and sperm, cuttlefish eggs, sea snails, and Pasta with sea urchins or with octopus ink. My favourite? if I need to pick one from these, I would say Pasta with Sea Urchins (Pasta con i Ricci di Mare), that is very seasonal: the best quality is around spring or during the cold months, as during summer they’re usually empty and/or tasteless. If you compare this dishes to the Bizarre Food that is part of the street food, these can be quite expensive, so make sure that you’re 100% convinced to try them before ordering!
Quality comes first, always.
What is really important when it comes to this type of foods is that you need to know exactly where and when to have them, so make sure to find a good guide or someone from the place that can safely introduce you to that food. If you don’t have any clue where to start we are always here to help, so grab this amazing tour from mare&co, minimum 2 tickets per booking, starting from a price of 36$ (and that includes some street food!) – Are you on a cruise and your boat stops at Palermo’s dock? They’re coming to pick you up for free!