Parmos... What is the attraction with this foodstuff on Teesside? For those that don't know - and you are the lucky ones - a parmo is a congealed assembly of chicken fillet and cheese sauce with golden breadcrumbs glowing in an oily coat - in fact so much oil you risk a US military invasion right there on your plate! Sounds disgusting? Tastes worse!
Parmos are the first thing that come to mind when people think of Middlesbrough - that and Middlesbrough FC, the Transporter Bridge, Smoggies and unpaid hospital staff...
From whence does this calorific culinary creation come? Well you might ask, so here is everything you never wanted to know about Teesside’s beloved parmo.
You won’t hear many Teessiders ask the question - where does the parmo come from? - for having grown up with parmos, the flattened meat dish is more ingrained on their psyche. But for the uninitiated, the parmo offers a new(ish) experience.
Like chicken? Like cheese? Then you’ll be a suitable victim for the deep-fried deliciousness of the parmo. Traditionally, the parmo consists of a flattened chicken breast, pork or veal - which has had the crap beaten out of it - and which is then dipped in egg and breadcrumbs and deep-fried. It’s next covered in a béchamel sauce and finally topped with cheese, typically cheddar cheese, which is then melted under the grill.
To many outsiders, it seems like a strange delicacy for a northern town to own. But after all, it was most probably an outsider who originally brought it to Middlesbrough. Like many of the best inventions, the exact origins of the parmo have been the subject of many a debate. It is closely linked to the Parmigiana from Italy, which involves covering meat or aubergine in cheese and tomato.
One story goes that it was created by former soldier Nicos Harris in 1958, at The American Grill restaurant he owned on Linthorpe Road in Middlesbrough. Other claims go to various restaurateurs around the town. After all, what better publicity in Boro than to have invented Teesside’s most famous dish?
Dishes, of course, always change as people look to put their own stamp on them and the parmo is no exception. These days you’re far more likely to find cheddar on top rather than the traditional Parmesan formaggio.
But you’re far better off getting the real deal from Boro town centre after a night out. It’ll usually come with some chips riding shotgun on a side plate and of course a bit of salad with garlic sauce – which is tossed on the pavement outside the takeaway, called a parmo house, in the traditional manner.
And there is the annual Parmo World Championships, of course. And rather like baseball's world series, it’s not exactly a global affair, with few entries coming from other continents. Or even counties, for that matter. In fact the entrants may be limited to those far-flung areas of the globe such as Billingham...or South Bank. The annual competition took place earlier this week as part of Stockton-on-Tees' Summer Fair.
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