Falafel: The Arabian French Fry
falafel from New Spring Restaurant - Tadmur / Palmyra - Syria
Is it falafel, falafal, fallafull, felapal, filfil, or what? What is it? Is it Greek? Arabic? Israeli? Turkish or what? Who cares? It's good, eat it and be happy!
During my college years when my friend learned that I had grown up in the Middle East, he posed a theory: no-one knows what is in a falafel. To prove his point we walked down to the local "Mediterranean" food place near campus and he demanded an answer from the owner/chef. It went like this:
- OK, what is in a falafel?!!
- Well, there is chickpeas, and spices.
- What spices?
- Different spices, depending on how you like it.
My friend was up in arms and laughed and stammered in awe. I think it was left like this. In any case, I also think my friend won, if we were betting on something, but the nature of falafel is its change-ability and I've had falafels ranging from all kinds of flavors and textures, some had peas, some had those little nuts, some had funky tasting jazz in them, etc.
In the Middle East, giving my predilection for re-wording things in a Western slant, the falafel is the Arabian French Fry.
Falafel is usually served on the side in the Middle East, as a side dish to shawarma or as a integral part of a mezze meal.
In the West, well in the States at least, falafel is touted by all kinds of vegetarians and health conscious people, well loved for its high concentration of protein. Healthy it is not, however, as the way its prepared is by chucking the formed balls into a vat of bubbling oil.
Falafels are delicious, and should be eaten by themselves, not chopped up in a sandwich (though they are excellent as such as well), but whole and dipped in either tahini or hummus. Falafels are usually made in vast wok-size units of bubbling oil and are only edible when freshly made (don't buy them and save them for hours later).
The falafel makers usually have a bowl of their special greenish falafel mix (each restaurant has their own secret recipe) and scoop the mix with this odd looking metallic instrument which sort of forms the wet mix into a falafel ball. Then with a flick of a handle, the ball drops into the vat of oil, frying up immediately into a wonderful snack.
Usually at Middle Eastern shawarma places they often give you a falafel to munch on while you wait makes the time go by a little bit better.
What makes a falafel is ground chickpeas/aka garbanzo beans, the same stuff in hummus. What makes it unique is what you add to it.
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