Parmo, or Parmesan, a breaded cutlet dish originating in Middlesbrough, is popular in the North East of England, North Yorkshire and especially in the towns of Stockton-on-Tees, Darlington and Hartlepool. Similar to a schnitzel, it typically consists of deep-fried chicken in bread crumbs topped with a white béchamel sauce and cheese. Variations use pork or, much less commonly, a vegetarian style.
The Parmo originated as escalope Parmesan, a derivative of veal or chicken Parmigiana, a dish found in several areas where Italian immigrants have settled. The parmo is said to have been created by Nicos Harris, a chef with the American army in World War II. He was wounded in France, but was brought to the United Kingdom to be treated in a British hospital. Eventually, he moved to Middlesbrough and opened a restaurant on Linthorpe Road, where he created the parmo at The American Grill in 1958. His son-in-law, Caramello, still lives in Teesside and continues the family tradition.
In 2009, supermarket chain Asda started selling parmos in their shops in Teesside. They claimed they were selling 6,000 chicken parmos a week, making them at the time the shop's fastest-selling line. Asda later expanded this line to branches outside Teesside.
Chicken or pork fillets are flattened, then dipped in egg and then bread crumbs, after which it is deep-fried. Onto this is poured a thick, white sauce (similar to béchamel sauce, but butter may be partially or wholly replaced by other fats) and then it is topped with grated cheese. The cheese is usually cheddar, rather than the Parmesan cheese that originally gave the dish its name. The dish is then grilled or baked to melt the cheese.
Recent years have seen an increase in the number of outlets preparing the parmo with reformed chicken rather than solid fillet.
The parmo is generally available in two sizes, and terminology varies between outlets:
- Large or full parmo
- Half, Lady or regular parmo
A new edition of the parmo has recently emerged in Hartlepool "the parmo wrap" (also sometimes referred to as a 'Ridley Wrap') which as standard is a half parmo wrapped in a large naan bread with an optional choice of garlic sauce.
Originally, veal was used, but was later replaced by pork. In more recent times, chicken became more popular as more Muslim-owned takeaway restaurants opened. Fish and vegetarian parmos are also offered in certain restaurants.
Parmos are also offered with additional toppings in combinations that vary from restaurant to restaurant. For example:
- Parmo hotshot - chicken or pork topped with cheese, pepperoni, peppers, garlic butter and chilli
- Parmo Kiev - chicken only topped with cheese, garlic butter, and mushrooms
- Parmo Italia - chicken or pork topped with cheese, garlic butter and ham, with a further topping of mozzarella cheese
- Meat feast parmo - chicken or pork topped with pepperoni, chicken and ham
- Parmo Zeno - chicken or pork topped with cheese and onions
- Nichola Marina vegetarian parmo - created by Charlie Constantine in honour of his late daughter
Due to its size, a full parmo is usually served in a pizza box along with its accompaniments, although a large round polystyrene tray is also common.
In 2007, North Yorkshire Trading Standards conducted a survey of 25 fast food dishes. A large parmo with chips and salad contains about 2600 calories and 150g of fat.
In popular culture
- "Primo Parmo" is the title of a short film, made by North East film company ACT 2 CAM in 2011. The film formed one of 10 stories which premiered at Tyneside Cinema under the title of 'Such is Life' with soundtrack by Lee Scratch Perry. Filmed at the abandoned Smith's Docks in South Bank, the film follows the fortunes of an illegal Parmo trader and explores the concept of cannibalism.
- The parmo appeared on ITV's Saturday Cooks! on 15 December 2007, and was cooked by Antony Worrall Thompson, with guidance from Tamsinne Hatfield, who originally brought the recipe to the attention of the chef.
- The Parmesan appeared on Channel 4's Ruth Watson's Hotel Rescue programme on 14 October 2009 from the Kenbarry Hotel/The Blackpool, Blackpool where Ruth described it as "the antichrist of cooking".
- The parmo was the subject of a question in the TV quiz show Eggheads on 13 November 2009. In the final round, when asked the region from which the parmo originates, the challenging team incorrectly answered East Anglia, in preference to North Wales and the correct answer Teesside. The incorrect answer given meant the Eggheads won that particular day's contest. Ironically for the show, Teesside was misspelled 'Teeside'.
- On 30 May 2010, a small parmo was served as a starter in an edition of Channel 4's Come Dine with Me filmed in Darlington.
- On 27 January 2013, hosts Tim Lovejoy and Simon Rimmer on Sunday Brunch presented Teesside native and former X Factor contestant Amelia Lily with a chicken parmo on the show.
- Teesside's fast food sensation. "Inside Out - North East - Teesside's fast food sensation". BBC. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
- "UK | England | Tees | Parmos flying off store shelves". BBC News. 2009-07-22. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
- Hancox, Dan (2009-10-09). "The 'parmo' goes national | Life and style". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
- Gazette, Evening (2009-03-11). "Buck Inn chef names Teesside’s first vegetarian parmo after tragic daughter". Gazette Live. Retrieved 2014-08-20.
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- "IMDb Such is Life".