‘A tunnina ca cipuddata, or fried tuna with sweet and sour onion, is one of the most typically Sicilian main courses. But why are you reading tunnina (therefore in the feminine) and non tunnino? Well, the answer seems to be pretty straightforward. The meat of the females is more refined. So, here is a case of recognized and undisputed superiority of the female 😀
The journey of the tuna
Seriously … It doesn’t matter if the tunnina is male or female. It is delicious, and it’s me to tell you, me, not a big fan of fish. If I have intrigued you and made you want to taste it at least once in your life, then you have to wait for May and June. It is at this time of year that the tuna leave Gibraltar to reach our shores and lay their eggs. Tuna, decidedly habitual from this point of view, have been on the same journey for millennia. The first to understand it were the Greeks, who devised a plan to capture them easily and created the tonnara- structure, still used today.
The mattanza, or the slaughter
They built a trap made of nets, arranged to form five chambers. They remain about 40 meters deep, thanks to the use of lead anchors. When the tuna reach the last, not anchored to the seabed chamber, the mattanza begins. The fishermen, better known as tonnaroti, arrange themselves on the sides of the room aboard the muciare, which are their black boats. At the same time, they pull up the net with all the strength they have in their body to win the fight with the tuna.
Tonnara is the building from which the boats of the fishermen leave and where tuna is processed. This type of fishing is disappearing, and the only one still active tonnara in Sicily is that of Favignana. However, I visited the one inside the Nature Reserve of Vendicari, the tonnara of Syracuse, and that of Avola. I think I will write an article on the Reserve of Vendicari.
Not just tunnina …
But let’s get back to tuna. Not everyone knows that it is like pork, in the sense that we don’t throw away anything from tuna. Here are some examples.
The surra, or ventresca, certainly is the most tasty part of the tuna. It is the fattest part of the animal, the one that surrounds the abdominal cavity. It is very delicious roasted and seasoned with oil, garlic, salt, and oregano.
Then there is the buzzonaglia, which is the least refined part of the tuna. These are the parts of the fillet that remain attached to the backbone and vertebrae of the fish. The buzzonaglia is dark and preserved in oil. It has an intense flavor, and I like to eat it in tomato and onion salad.
You can also eat the eggs of tuna, which are salted and dried. I’m talking about bottarga. I have never tasted it, because they told me the taste is quite strong and I have already told you about my relationship with fish … My parents eat it grated on spaghetti, but someone slices it up raw.
Last but not least, the lattume. I first heard about it a couple of months ago at my sister’s house. We were all gathered there, and my dad had the brilliant idea of showing up with a bag full of lattume. The fishmonger had suggested him to flour and frying it, and my mother followed the advice. I must admit it was very tempting. But all good things come to an end… What happened? My brother-in-law, knowing my special relationship with fish, decided to tell me what lattume is. Well, dear reader. Lattume is the seminal liquid of tuna. I think it is unnecessary to say that I refused to taste it, even though it smelled great … But after all, if you read the article on Giardini Naxos, you already know that my grandfather always said that fried shoes would be good, too 😀
Have you ever eaten it?
I prefer a slice of tunnina with onion cooked by my lovely mother. 💗
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