Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Parmo night

California has its egg white omelette and, of course, the California roll. New York has the papaya/hot dog combo and the New York strip steak. London has… hmmm…. What does London have, as signature foods go? Well, perhaps the fact there’s no obvious answer to that says it all. Either about the wonderful diversity of London’s food, or the paucity thereof, depending on your point of view.

Anyway, enough about those other places, for now we are in Saltburn. You might think the signature dish around here is fish and chips. And it’s certainly unquestionably true that the North Yorkshire coastline is the source of the best fish and chips in the whole world. But there’s another dish which is the local speciality: the parmo. The parmo is more Teesside than Yorkshire, and Saltburn straddles both places: look right from the pier and you see the rolling cliff top fields and wooded hills of picture perfect North Yorkshire. Look left and the industrial glories of Teesside – the steel works at Redcar, big ships queuing up to go into Teesport– fill the horizon.

While tourists, seeking North Yorkshire’s old fashioned seaside delights, opt for fish and chips, the locals eat parmos.

‘What’s a parmo?’ I hear you ask. Well, clearly you’re not from round here. Neither is TLOML and he has asked the same question many times. Mainly because there’s so much talk of parmos. TLOML’s swim club buddies keep asking him when he’s going to try one. Every pub and most restaurants have a ‘parmo night’, when all the specials are parmos. Chicken parmos, pork parmos, mushroom parmos, and so on.
Thursday is parmo night at The Ship
Allow me to put you out of your misery. A parmo is a piece of meat (or mushroom mush), bashed about and flattened a bit, breaded and fried. Sounds a bit like those chicken escalopes you see in greasy spoons in London, doesn’t it? (Is that London’s signature dish? No, it can’t be. Teesside claims it). But what makes it more than just an escalope, what elevates it into a parmo, is that it is then topped with b├ęchamel sauce and grated parmesan. And chips. Boom! Heart attack! They are served in Styrofoam boxes to drunks up and down Linthorpe Road every Saturday night. And to civilised people in Saltburn pubs on parmo nights.

TLOML tried his first parmo at the weekend – under the expert guidance of my brother-in-law, who knows a first rate pub chef who makes a good one (no reformed chicken, or cheddar instead of parmesan, for him). 
TLOML with his parmo

His verdict? He liked it. But he didn’t see it catching on outside Teesside. I'm not so sure. Despite its healthy image and all those fro-yo shops, LA is also home to Roscoes, which served quite possibly the least healthy meal I’ve ever eaten (half a fried chicken, waffles, and so much salt I was thirsty for  two days afterwards). I wonder if we might open up a parmo shop on our return, and show those Californians what they're missing.
I could see this having an exotic appeal on Santa Monica Boulevard

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