IT’S a question publicans have been trying to answer for decades: What makes the perfect parma?
Figuring it out is like finding the holy grail of pub culture and would answer a thousand variables.
What type of chicken tastes best? Should it be grilled or deep fried first? And to ham or not to ham?
Ballarat’s bustling pub scene means locals have a myriad of choices when going out for a parma, which, incidentally, originated in southern Italy and was first made with eggplant rather than chicken.
As the weather warms up and Ballarat heads out for lunch, every chef is now perfecting their parma recipe.
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“If you don’t do a good parma, you’re not going to get people in,” says head chef at the Red Lion, Joe Capuano.
“It’s fairly do or die.” Mr Capuano’s own approach is to deep fry the chicken and use mozzarella on top, with locally sourced ingredients a must.
At The Mallow, they’re more traditional. Head chef Dean Pedrotti said the secret ingredient to his parmas was thick ham under the cheese.
“We get a lot of compliments on the fact there’s a nice bit of ham there,” he said.
But which kind of cheese, exactly? He wouldn’t say. “I don’t want to give too much away,” he said.
Mr Pedrotti said a good parma was key to running a bistro in Ballarat. “We do sell quite a few of them, so it’s important to make it a good product that people enjoy,” he said.
Head chef at the Grapes Hotel, Alex Wilson, said his kitchen used thin slices of ham and Egmont cheese and his parmas were cooked on a flat grill rather than deep fried.
Mr Wilson said the most important thing was to keep it simple.
“That’s one of the things I’ve learned – don’t over-complicate things,” he said.