Panelle are made of fried gram flour dough and the recipe is said to have been brought to Sicily by Arab people who used to eat this gram flour and water paste, but Sicilian people had the idea of cutting it into slices and fry it.
This recipe was a very important part of the poor cooking of Palermo, then it became one of the most representative street food of the city. The main feature that has characterized for a very long time this street food was the fact that usually it was made, bought and eaten only by men.
By tradition panellari have always been male and even nowadays they often still are. Moreover, now as then most of the customers eating in the street standing and chatting are usually men. In the past women either prepared panelle themselves or ate them when men brought them home.
Panelle have an old story that began under the Arab domination in Sicily in the 9th century. Arab people changed a lot in Palermo and built some of the most beautiful monuments of the city.
Throughout the centuries everybody liked panelle, not only famous people from Palermo and Sicily such as Luigi Pirandello, Leonardo Sciascia and Renato Guttuso, but also tourists and representatives from all over the world.
Nowadays this street food is loved and eaten by a great number of people as a tasty goodnight snack before they go home after a night out; others consider panelle as a proper meal especially when served with special bread rolls called mafalda or moffoletta covered in sesame. Often the bread roll is filled also with cazzilli, also known as crocché, some salt, pepper and sometimes some lemon drops.