Arancini siciliani, snacks fit for a king
Arancini siciliani, the epitome of authentic street food, an age-old Italian snack, and consumed with religious respect. Plain boiled rice is spread out into rounds of roughly ten centimeters in diameter, filled with ragu or other fillings, closed, coated with breadcrumbs and deep-fried. They are believed to have Arab origins, especially the original version with saffron. Arancini are named after the Sicilian oranges of the “Conca d’Oro” area that they are said to resemble.
Some attribute the idea of the breadcrumb coating to Federico II, who supposedly asked for an easy way to take the dish out on hunting trips. With this simple change, the arancini kept longer and were easily transportable, making arancini siciliani ideal for taking out to work in the fields, becoming the famed Italian street food we know today.
Arancini, a “sacred” recipe, encapsulate the culture of Sicily, and are not to be confused with the similar Roman “supplì”. Arancini are eaten on the 13th of December, the festival of Santa Lucia, a commemorative day when the people of Palermo traditionally avoid flour-based foods. Andrea Camilleri even mentions arancini in the title of a collection of short stories about that well-known inspector, “Gli arancini di Montalbano”.