Among the foods most loved by people of Palermo in the summer when they go in the maritime areas surrounding the city, is the boiled octopus that we say "purpu vugghiuto".
In the square of Mondello were lots of shacks of "purpari" (men that cooks the octopus), where you could buy this delight of the sea. Certainly these shacks had obstructed the view of the sea and was not always possible to ensure compliance with all rules of hygiene (as is the case for almost all the food street of Palermo).
It was for this reason that in the mid '80s all the stalls of the purpari were removed from the square of Mondello, with the protests of those who so loved to taste the octopus hot, feeling the scent of the sea. Admittedly,the shacks in sheet were really bad, but had a special charm, popular, and were a source of attraction for people of Palermo, but also for tourists that loved this folklore.
As for the hygienic issue, the people of Palermo would not have too many problems, since we have the stomach immunized from all things, thanks to years of training to the more bizarre foods, heavy and in places not always clean ...
certainly not for the tourists, in their case a "true test of courage ", although I must say that I have never heard of people who have had problems with our food!Returning to the "purpari" of Mondello, some of these have moved within the restaurants to continue their historical activities.
The Boiled octopus can be found too at Sferracavallo (with urchins and mussels), in the village of Romagnolo (also various shacks were torn down) and sometimes also in the historical markets of Palermo.
The "purpari" made boiled the octopus in the pot (the most traditional clay) filled with sea water, and then served it on ceramic dishes accompanied only by a dash of lemon. They had a ritual in the cook and serve, and a great skill in choosing the most tender (females) or more valuable (the MAIOLINO).
photos by Judy Witts
To cook the octopus, there is a "secret", you should boil the water (salt abundantly, because is not so easy to use directly the sea water) and immerse octopus (previously washed) take it for the head (which is the stomach), on three times, immersing it and exiting it by the water.
I think this trick have a purely aesthetic grounds, to curl the tentacles "the granfe" upwards, but no one palermitano would do it differently.
When the water resumes boiling, we calculate ten minutes (keeping the lid of the pot semi open), then turns off the fire and leave the octopus in water to stay warm for at least an hour, so it will be certainly tender, or at least I hope, because even the art to be a purparo is a real art!
The true fans of boiled octopus, just eat it by adding the juice of the lemon, but is also excellent at salad , cut into pieces and seasoned simply with oil, lemon and fresh parsley.
One curiosity, when the coffee is a little watered down, in Palermo we say "But is it Water of octopus?".