This is probably the highlight of my Sicilian trip and it’s because of the wonderful home cooking experience. Since the cooking was in the evening, we decided to visit Palermo, more precisely the street market, yipeeee!
Before I start, I’ll share the video of the home cooking, Private Chef, Cefalu by Joolzy on for those who prefer to watch rather than to read. Julian did a great job in delivering the true atmosphere of the evening in his short video, and I’m looking forward to seeing more videos on the rest of the trip soon.
So now let’s move on to the market. The market we went to is Ballarò in Palermo. Living in Istanbul, I’m used to the bustles and shouts of vendors but in Sicily they were a lot louder, making strange whistles and tunes!
There are so many photos of foods but I can’t and won’t share them all. There was a huge variety of produce and some of them had odd shapes and sizes or were strange like this snake-like long zucchini, cucuzza.
What caught my attention the most, though, was the fish stalls. I was truly amazed by the variety, abundance, and the price. In deed, Sicily is all about seafood.
There were some fish that I’d eaten in Korea, for example, this silver scabbardfish, known locally as spatola, is one of the most delicious and healthiest fish and I miss eating it. Another local fish is capon, which we ate the night before and was very tasty.
Hang on, I know a stingray, but is the one in the right what I think it is? OMG, baby sharks!!! I didn’t get to ask how they eat it and I don’t really want to know…
And here comes the famous swordfish…. I really felt like sitting down and enjoying all the seafood and oyster with a nice bottle of wine right there and right then, but work is work after all! The fish torture continued as we paved through the vibrant market, oysters, prawns, fried or stuffed squid, sardine stuffed with bread crumb, raisins and pine nuts, whitefish, fried whitebait, etc.
And then, we walked over to where the loudest voice in the whole market was coming from and it turned out to be the famous local delicacy, stigghiola. I knew then why I was invited to this trip…. It’s the intestines of lamb entwisted around caul fat and spring onion aka. scallion(Did you know that it came from scalogno, which reflects the origin of the Palestinian Arab town of Ascalon?)
This is labelled as ‘dare to try or not for the faint hearted’ but when you become a true foodie, your curiosity overcomes your fears and limits and also I’ve eaten a similar food called kokoreç in Turkey so it wasn’t a big deal for me.
While the guy, the third generation in the business, was shouting and grilling it enthusiastically, many tourists gathered, asked what it was and turned away grimacing. But I can tell you the smell was really tempting.
I finally tasted it and…. it was as delicious as it smelled, seasoned only with sea salt and fresh scallion… simple, and it didn’t have any of the ‘oofel’ smell. If I had eaten it with eyes closed, I’d have guessed it was ordinary meat, of course, except the chewiness, which required a glass of Nerello Mascalese, the Sicilian red grape variety I discovered and came to love, to mash it down in the mouth.
Enough of the fish and offal? Then here come the cheeeeeese! Fresh ricotta, salty ricotta, baked ricotta, smoked ricotta… the list goes on, and there’s pecorino, salami, olives, capers….
I even had two, hearing that the seeds will cleanse out the system. You should definitely try this when in Sicily. Have a listen to The Splendid Table podcast in the meantime.
We continued to eat while visiting major historical sights. Due to its rich history, there were so many things to see including Cappella Palatina, Cathedral, Fountain of Shame, Quattro Canti, creepy Capuchin Catacombs, which the guys were keen on but after all the yummy food, I didn’t think it was a good idea so we didn’t go there.
I’ll share only a few photos and a bunch of links for you to study and get inspired to visit Sicily and I’ll continue to eat.
Here’s another Sicilian speciality, Sfincione (anchovy-bread-crumbed pizza), the contrast of sweet tomato sauce and salty anchovy… yum! but too full to eat the whole crust so I ate only the topping 🙂 Oh, Angelo, Angelo~~~ our lovely angel Italian just like his name – we all got to love him – he explained about everything we ate and every place we visited.
Well done! Now we deserve a special treat. Gelato Brioche for the guys and a glass of PietraCava, Millenune, Inzolia for moi! The wine had nice flavours of citrus fruits, peach, grapefruit and pineapple.
Sitting across from The Teatro Massimo where the final scenes of the film The Godfather 3 were filmed, we finally got to relax. How on earth do Sicilians eat this massive ice-cream burger? Apparently many people eat it instead of lunch. Ok, that makes sense since it’s so hot. And the best Gelato choice for this is what you see in the photo, chocolate&blackcurrant, pistachio&??something other than vanilla.
Now here is the real highlight, Sicilian Cooking with a Private Chef, yeah! The reason I flew all the way to Sicily for. The cooking session was organised by Massimo Villas and you’ll see the photos of the villa in Cefalu to give you an idea of the surroundings and the setting.
We were so lucky to be invited to this gorgeous Sicilian villa, and the moment we walked through the gate, we were welcomed by lovely and intense smells of lavenders and other garden herbs, which was intoxicating and soothing. In the kitchen, our chef, Nino, was waiting for us and guided us through the dishes he was preparing and I couldn’t have been more excited to meet such a talented and inspiring chef. Being an artist by day, he decorated each plate artfully with various herbs from his own garden, with which he also cooked.
For antipasti, we had vegetable quiche, caramelised tomato with buffalo cream cheese, and fish carpaccio Sicilian-style, and then, Nino brought the primi, Pasta alla Norma to the table himself and introduced the story behind the dish and his secret recipe.
How a simple combination of tomatoes and eggplants could earn such an exquisite title, you ask? Well, you have to try it to know it. His pasta alla norma was undoubtedly the best I’d tasted during my stay – he cooked the sauce for 3 hours! Also, he pureed the sauce with almonds, which gives the creaminess and richness to the sauce. I hope he doesn’t mind me giving away his secret recipe!
Now it’s the time for the grand flair of the fish on fire! It was very impressive!
It was very clever of him to come up with such an idea, which I’m eager to try it myself. This method allows to steam and smoke the fish at the same time, and the aromas of mixed herbs and spices oozing out with smoke while cooking were just incredible. I’m drooling while writing this.
We all toasted to the chef and enjoyed the fish while talking and laughing. What a delightful dinner! It was nice to meet Aussie and Kiwi folks and talk about my life DownUnder as well.
By the way, did you enjoy the video? In the next post, I’ll share my food hunting in Cefalu including ‘finding the best Arancini’ and ‘wine tastings’ and more. Ciao for now!