WHAT'S the meaning of life? Is there a God? Should a chicken parmigiana come with ham?
The biggest questions in life have a way of splitting opinion; whether classic pub staple the chicken parma should have ham is one such question.
In Ballarat, it appears public sentiment is leaning towards "yes", if the city’s pub menus are any guide.
A majority of Ballarat pubs surveyed by The Courier serve their chicken parma with ham, although not all believe combining poultry and pork is a good idea.
Seventeen of the 23 pubs we asked said yes to ham, while six said no.
At the Eureka Stockade Hotel, ham is optional. Chef Jason Gratton said the majority of parmas made in his kitchen came without ham, which is how he prefers to eat it himself.
“There’s a lot of places that don’t actually give you a choice, they’ll automatically put ham on it,” he said.
Mr Gratton said his “traditional” parma recipe had been perfected after 28 years of cooking, much of that in Melbourne.
He uses chicken breast fillets, which are crumbed.
The classic napoli sauce on top is made with tomato, red onion, oregano, garlic and a dash of red wine.
The cheese is a mix of tasty and mozzarella, with the ham placed above the sauce.
Mr Gratton said his version of the parma had always been a hit since he used to make it for the pubs in Melbourne.
“I’ve never changed my recipe,” he said.
|Atlantic Hotel||NO HAM|
|Black Hill Hotel||HAM|
|Blue Bell Hotel||HAM|
|Brown Hill Hotel||HAM|
|Bunch of Grapes Hotel||HAM|
|Eureka Stockade Hotel||HAM|
|Golden City Hotel||HAM|
|Golf House Hotel||NO HAM|
|Irish Murphy’s Ballarat||HAM|
|Lake View Hotel||HAM|
|North Britain Hotel||NO HAM|
|Peter Lalor Hotel||HAM|
|Queen’s Head Hotel||NO HAM|
|Red Lion Hotel||HAM|
|Royal Mail Hotel||NO HAM|
|Royal Oak Hotel||NO HAM|
|The George Hotel||HAM|
|The Grapes Hotel||HAM|
|The Mallow Hotel||HAM|
Tom Cowie loves to ham it up. PICTURE: KATE HEALY
THERE isn't a meal that cannot be made better with the addition of some variety of pork product.
Got a boring salad sandwich? Add bacon. Tired with the same old spag bol? Throw in salami.
Chicken parmas are no different.
While the original eggplant version may have been born in southern Italy, the chicken parmigiana has almost become Australia's national dish.
Walk into any pub in Ballarat and they'll probably sell you one. More than likely it will come stacked with delicious ham.
That's the way it should always be: chicken, napoli sauce, ham, cheese – the holy quadruple.
A parma without ham is like a meat pie without tomato sauce or ice cream sans sprinkles. You can eat it but it sure as hell won't be as good.
Don't get me wrong: I am not against your more fancy versions of the parma.
A traditionalist I may be, but I'm not conservative. Go on, replace that mozzarella with feta. Yes please, substitute those slices of ham for prosciutto.
Just don't try and give me a parma without pork. I, and Australia, shouldn't have to stand for it.
OR NOT TO HAM?
Grace Bibby prefers to keep it simple. PICTURE: KATE HEALY
THERE is no need for ham on a chicken parmigiana.
For me, the traditional chicken parma is a lightly crumbed chicken schnitzel covered with a generous amount of napoli sauce and topped with melted, slightly browned cheese.
With a delicious, well assembled meal, why ruin it with a slice of ham?
For those who agree with me they will understand how a piece of ham can make or break a perfect parma. It comes back to the old saying “less is more”.
By placing the slice of processed meat on the Australian favourite, you run the risk of having ham too thick or too thin, too fatty, or even the wrong type. Ham complicates what is already a simple and delicious classic.
One thing I notice is the occasional fragrant ham that overpowers the entire dish and unless you dislike ham on your parma you probably haven’t even noticed.
These are all reasons why more pubs and hotels should stick to the basics and ditch the ham.