Why The Best Thing To Eat In Palermo Is Street Food In The Ballaro Markets
Sicily is a Mediterranean gem with more than a slight air of neglect and no experience sums up the city more than experiencing Street Food in the Ballaro Markets.
We arrived in the capital Palermo on a warm August day to find a city that’s full of contrasts. Stunning buildings and churches covered in gold leaf sit alongside neighborhoods abandoned in a complete state of ruin.
This gorgeous island sits apart from Italy with a unique history that combines middle eastern influences in its architecture, food, and culture. The food is mouthwatering, with a trip to try the street food in the Ballaro Markets one of the best activities in the city.
We kicked off our market day with a trip to the Ballaro Markets, here seafood takes center stage, with huge swordfish as the star. Vendors shout about their wares as heavily laden scooters navigate their way down narrow streets, piled with fresh goods for nearby restaurants. In addition to fish, there are stands laden with tropical fruits, buckets of live snails and various spices and dry foods. Even if you don’t make it to the Ballaro Markets you will certainly eat some of the wares during a visit to the city. Palermo restaurants invariably alter their menus based on the day’s catch at Ballaro, and a swordfish carpaccio is to die for.
As well as ingredients and raw fish there are ready-made street food delights to try as your browse. Some of the regional specialties may not be for the faint-hearted, as organs feature heavily. Those who dare to taste will be rewarded with rich flavors unlike any typical “Italian” dish you may have tried before.
Arancine is a good place to start for the timider. These rice balls are similar to those you may have tried outside Sicily, but somehow better when eaten at a bustling Palermo street-side stall.
Panelle is another non-intimidating street food option. What is essentially deep-fried chickpea dough, the Panelle show the North African influence on the island, and these delightfully greasy fritters can be eaten alone or in a sandwich. The locals swear by adding a dash of lemon, but personally, I preferred it without.
Then there are various options of spleen sandwich and skewered intestines, which despite priding myself on being adventurous, I couldn’t quite bring myself to try the first time I saw them, and failed to see them again on the trip – these more rustic options may be less popular as modern day tourists’ baulk at the idea of eating entrails.
A strong Mafia influence is still evident in this neighborhood, with a clear split between the haves and have not. Some streets near the Ballaro market are so derelict that it looks like they were recently bombed, yet the scene is contrasted by a chauffeured Maserati Quattroporte driving slowly through the abandoned streets.
This isn’t a place for airs and graces, the locals are casual and street food is served in what may seem a very unhygienic environment, but it’s undoubtedly worth a visit to Sicily for the Arancine alone.
Photos: Snap55 Photography
5 Sicilian Street Foods To Try:
- Gelato con brioche
- Pani ca Meusa
Read About My Other Italian Adventures: