Falafel-Favorite Street Food of the Middle East

by Sarah on May 22, 2010

falafel

Although falafel is one of the most well loved street foods of the Middle East it has taken me more than a year to post a recipe. Like macaroons in France, falafel is not usually made at home. Why bother when there are professional falafel makers all over the country that have perfected the craft. It takes speed and dexterity to produce the perfect falafel ball and only those with experience can attempt frying batches while simultaneously watching the local sports and chatting with customers. I have tried getting recipes from these falafel vendors but this is a closely guarded secret and even asking is met with suspicion.

Jackie's Falafel in Ramle

chickpeas

Sourcing Bulgarian chickpeas in Shuk Levinsky in Tel Aviv

After hummus, falafel is another famous street food which gets Middle Easterners into paroxysms. Israelis, it seems, love falafel a little too much. This culinary icon has not gone unnoticed and there are some who argue that it can’t possibly be an Israeli food as it is quintessential Arab. And what better way than proving ownership than breaking the world’s record, time and time again.

falafel

Arab vender in Jerusalem selling huge falafel and bagels

falafel

Huge falafel served with zaatar in a newspaper

All this record breaking will undoubtedly drive the cost of the poor chickpea to astronomical levels. It is best to invest in them before another elephant sized tub of hummus or sofa cushion falafel ball is made and international press have a field day thinking up of witty headlines. Which brings me to the question- why are all the other wonderful Middle Eastern foods ignored in all this rivalry. I would love to see kubba challenges for a change.

falafel

Falafel

Falafel is made throughout the Levant but originated in ancient Egypt. The Christian Copts, believed to be the descendent of the ancient Egyptians, continue to make falafel, or Tam’iya as it is known there. In Egypt falafel is generally made with fava beans but in the Levant the chickpeas version is more common due to its wide availability. In Israel, many Jews have a hereditary condition called favism, a type of enzyme deficiency which causes hemolytic anemia if fava beans are eaten. To avoid this problem, most falafel stands use chickpeas.

1 1/2 cups chickpeas, soaked overnight

1/2 onion, roughly chopped

1 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 cup fresh parsley/coriander (cilantro)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cumin

Soak the chickpeas over night in purified water, changing the water a few times. In a food processor add the chickpeas (not cooked), onions, garlic,  parsley/coriander, spices and baking soda. Blend until the mixture is grainy. Form pingpong sized balls, trying not to compact them too much. Fry in vegetable oil until golden. Serve with tehina and tomato and cucumber salad. Amba and preserved lemons are also condiments which go well with falafel ( especially if bought at  Shuk Hatikva.)

falafel

Tips:

It should not be necessary to add flour or eggs as binding agents, both are not traditional. Never cook the chickpeas before making them into falafel balls otherwise they will disintegrate during frying!! The smaller chickpeas, bulgari or hadas is recommended.

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