Sometimes it is shaped like a ball and sometimes like a flat burger. It may have a pail brown color, or be darksome. Have a smooth or grainy texture, and be eaten inside a pita or a Turkish bread. Make way for the hummus’s brother: falafel.
Falafel is the second most common dish made of chickpeas, after hummus of course. It is eaten in many Arab and Mediterranean countries, each with it’s own special version.
You can find falafel all around the world today. But when in the US and North Europe, is it usually made by ex-Israeli’s, Lebanese, Egyptians or Turks. Falafel is very common in these countries (except Turkey).
Is falafel a Jewish/Israeli food?
Well, there is that theory about how the ancient Jews invented falafel during their slavery in Egypt, and brought it back with them to the holy land. Doesn’t sound too convincing to me, but falafel does owe a lot to Israel, where it is highly popular. In Israel, falafel has first found it’s way into the pita bread. Israeli’s were also the first to spread it to Europe and the US, somewhere around the early 1970′s.
But where did it come from?
A common theory suggests falafel was invented some 1000 years ago by the Egyptian Copts, who brought it with them to the rest of the middle-east. Another theory date the invention of falafel as far as the the 6th century AD, or even earlier, placing it on the subcontinent of India, which is known until today for making various chickpea-based dishes. And like anything else – some say it was invented by the ancient Egyptians.
What is falafel made of?
There’s a falafel recipe here which you can check for yourself and see. To make long things short: soaked chickpeas, coriander, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. When it is greener, it usually means there’s a lot of coriander in it. Some add onions, parsley, paprika and sesame seeds to it. Soaked bread and baking soda are often used to make it more airy.
But originally, falafel was made from broad beans.
Even today, Egyptian falafel is made of ful (brown dried broad beans). Surprisingly, not only is the taste pretty similar, but falafel made of chickpeas is also considered healthier.
Is falafel good for you?
Falafel contains around 325 calories for 100gm. It’s made out of 35% water, 30% carbohydrates, 15 percent protein and some 20% of the rest – which may include some fat and also vitamins and minerals, from potassium and magnesium to folate. When deep fried, the falafel contains relatively little fat, and when eaten with salad it is both satiating and healthy.
Is there a correct way to eat it?
In Berlin where it is fairly common, falafel is usually made by Turks. They serve it in a Turkish toasted bread, with salads, and some spicy sauces. In the middle-east, it is eaten inside a pocket pita bread, mainly with vegetable salad and tahini. In Israel you also usually get some French fries, pickles and pickled cabbage. In Arab countries, Traditionally, it is eaten as a stand alone side dish.
What makes the different texture in different places?
The best way to make falafel is by grinding the ingredients through a meat grinder. In some places, a simple food processor is used, so the texture is more smooth and it is less crunchy.