For those who don’t know falafel:

It’s a vegan, protein-rich, fiber-rich, gluten*- and other allergen-free ball—sometimes a patty—of goodness, fried† to cruncy crispiness (photo #1), that has captivated food lovers the world over. It’s so meaty and chewy that newbies often don’t realize it’s meatless.

The ingredients include mashed chickpeas, fava beans or a combination. In better recipes, lots of chopped cilantro and/or parsley and spices are highlights.

The inside of a good falafel ball should have lots of green herb flecks. At our favorite falafel place, the inside is half green.

Falafel is traditionally served in a pita pocket (photo #2), wrapped in a flatbread (photo #3), or added to a mezze† plate or a salad plate. (MINI-TIP: Go for a whole wheat pita. It’s more flavorful and contributes toward your 48g of whole grains).

Falafel makes a filling lunch or snack. But there are a dozen more ways to enjoy falafel, below.
 
THE HISTORY OF FALAFEL

Some food historians believe that falafel originated in Egypt, as a food for early Christians who observed meatless holidays like Lent. It was made from the plentiful fava bean harvest, and today is one of Egypt’s national dishes.

Falafel then migrated northward to the Levant**, where local chickpeas replaced the fava beans.

Just think: If Saint Mark hadn’t established the Church of Alexandria in 43 C.E., (today the Coptic Orthodox Church), we might not have falafel!

In Arabic, the word means both “hot peppers” and “fluffy.” Today’s falafel doesn’t have to be either.
 
 
MODERN FALAFEL

The most common version of falafel served in the U.S. combines chickpeas, chickpea flour, garlic, spices and sometimes fresh herbs and scallions. The blend is typically rolled into balls, then deep-fried until golden and crunchy.

The conventional Middle Eastern treatment tucks balls of falafel into a pita pocket with a raw or pickled vegetable garnish (carrots, onions, turnips) and a creamy drizzle of tahini (tehina). Some restaurants and falafel stands substitute hummus for the drippier tahini, which can soak through the pita.

Hot sauce is optional. An appeal of falafel is that, like a slice of pizza, it can be eaten sitting down or on-the-go.

 
Creative Falafel Preparations

Whether as a sandwich or a snack, deep-fried food is always popular with Americans. In addition to bar snacks with a dip—not necessarily a Middle Eastern dip—today’s chefs have adapted the classic recipe in appealing ways:

  • Grain and vegetable bowls, topped with falafel.
  • Falafel sliders, using falafel instead of mini-meat patties (here’s a recipe).
  • Falafel “tacos”: falafel with avocado, beets, kale, pickles, watermelon radish and tahini, served in lettuce wraps, at Eureka! Burger in Hawthorne, California. (Word police: What makes this a “taco” and not a “wrap?”)
  • Falafel snack plate, for example, with baby zucchini, yogurt, and a fusion ingredient, shishito peppers, at Sepia in Chicago.
  • Falafel sandwich or salad plate with a twist, combining Middle Eastern ingredients like tahini, Israeli salad, shredded cabbage, harissa and zhug (Middle Eastern hot sauce) with visitors from other cuisines, such as mango pickles, at Goldie Falafel in Philadelphia.
  • Shoestring fries, dusted in sumac garnish a somewhat traditional falafel at Dune in Los Angeles (photo #3), served in housemade puffy flatbread with hummus, pickled turnips, carrots, beets, onion, cabbage, fresh greens and house-fermented pickles.
  • Falafel waffle: The patty shape has been expanded to a falafel waffle—“fawaffle” (photo #4), shown in the photo with Israeli salad. Here’s a recipe.
  • Falafel waffle cone, a savory cone replacing the pita, filled with falafel ingredients, at Alejandro’s Kitchen in Toronto (photo #5)
  • Falafel and spaghetti, instead of meatballs. It works with white flour pasta, but is even better with whole wheat- or legume-based pasta.
  •  
    Then, there’s our personal favorite, the falafel party bar, where we can build our perfect falafel creations (see the chart below).

    You can buy frozen falafel, fry or bake your own (here’s a recipe), of purchase any or all of the ingredients from your nearest falafel emporium.

     

    Falafel Balls With Dip
    [1] Falafel balls an be served as a snack with a tip, as at Just Falafel.

    Falafel In Pita
    [2] The classic presentation, in a pita pocket at Goldie Falafel | Philadelphia (photo Michael Persico).

    Falafel With Fries
    [3] Shoestring fries atop falafel at http://dune.kitchen/” rel=”noopener” target=”_blank”>Dune on flatbread, at Dune in Los Angeles: Who’s going to complain?

    Falafel Waffle
    [4] The falafel waffle, or fawaffle. Here’s a recipe from Food Republic.

    Falafel Waffle Cone
    [5] A falafel waffle cone, becoming popular at food trucks such as Alejandro’s Kitchen in Toronto (photo courtesy BlogTo).

     
    Falafel Party Bar
     
    *Chart: The Nibble.
    __________

    *Traditional falafel is gluten-free, but read the label. Some manufacturers add wheat flour or wheat germ to the balls don’t fall apart. Potato flour, soy flour and soy protein can also be added. Recipes that use bread crumbs or flour can use gluten-free options.

    †For frying falafel, canola oil and peanut oil are monounsaturated fats (good for you fats). To cut down on fat calories, you can bake the falafel instead of frying.

    ‡Mezze are assorted dips and spreads, and also include babaganoush, hummus, tabbouleh, eggplant dip and other local favorites.

    **The Levant included modern Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and the Gaza Strip) and Syria.

      


    THE NIBBLE Blog – Adventures In The World Of Fine Food

    Related Posts

    TIP OF THE DAY: Pick A Better Cheese For Your Cheeseburger

    RECIPE: Apple Dumplings For National Apple Dumpling Day

    FOOD 101: The History Of Peanuts For National Peanut Day

    TIP OF THE DAY: Add Crunch To Your Foods

    TIP OF THE DAY: Beyond Ants On A Log

    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Grass-Fed Beef From Pre Brand

    Comments

    Reply comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *