Pani ca’ meusa, Palermo and its traditional flavours
Pani ca’ meusa, local to Palermo, the European capital of street food. An authentic Italian dish that even today is still mainly the preserve of street-vendors, it consists of a soft roll (vastella) sprinkled with sesame seeds (giuggiulena), and filled with chopped spleen, lung, and sometimes trachea, of veal. The meat is first boiled and then pan-fried in lard, and served piping hot. If eaten with a “veil” of caciocavallo cheese it goes by the name of “maritatu”, or “married”. Without, it is known as “schettu” (“single”) and is garnished with just a squeeze of lemon.
This recipe’s roots go back to the packed Jewish ghetto in Palermo: some inhabitants worked in the slaughterhouses, but not being allowed to accept money for their work, they were paid in kind with offal (except for the prized liver), which they then sold with bread. With the expulsion of the Jews from South Italy ordered by Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1492, the selling of this delicacy was taken over by the “caciottari”.
These days the sellers, “meusari”, vie for business in the markets of the city, each inspiring their own following, and showing the true credentials of this humble but delicious meal: real Italian street food enjoyed on the go by people of all walks of life.