We want to take a look inside the world of Palermo Street Food from the vegetarian king of our tradition: MAFALDA CON PANELLE. “Mafalda con Panelle” is a special sandwich made by two essential elements:
1. “Mafalda.” It is a special kind of bread, typical from Palermo. “Mafalda” is a bread with a golden crust, it has the delicate and distinctive flavor of sesame seeds.
“Mafalda” is moulded into various forms, including the “Eyes of Saint Lucia” and the “Crown”. Our tradition says that it is a bread with Arab origins, because the Arabs were the people which imported in Sicily sesame seeds - in Sicilian “Giuggiulena” - but, actually, is more reliable the hypothesis which says that this kind of bread was invented by a baker from Catania and dedicated to Mafalda di Savoia an Italian Queen, just in the same way of pizza Margherita in Naples.
2. “Panelle.” They are typical Sicilian fritters made from chickpea flour, water, salt, and parsley.
The flour is dissolved in salt water and is mixed for long time with a wooden spoon, until it becomes a creamy batter. Then, this batter is laid out on a marble slab, cut, and in the end fried. The historical background of panelle is Arab. In fact between the ninth and eleventh centuries, Arabians wanted to implement the use of one of the food products that they imported from the East: chickpeas! They started to try different ways to prepare chickpeas and one of the ways they often used was obtaining chickpea flour and cooking it like bread, but fried and not baked in the oven. That's way in Italian we call bread “Pane” and these tasty chickpeas fritters “Panelle”.
This kind of Street Food is native to Palermo but today is pretty common in all the western area of Sicily. In Palermo people eat it with salt, pepper, and lemon juice on the top. It is a snack or even a fast lunch and Mafalda con Panelle is considered a substantial meal, cheap, and fast.