Falafel (pronounced Fuh-La-fel) is small patty of ground chickpeas and other vegetables seasoned with spices and deep-fried in oil. It often is stuffed in a pita and served as meal.
One would think that eating fried beans would not be so delicious, but, somehow, whenever a falafel stand is found, there is a crowd of people. My brother who lives in Boston tried to buy a small falafel shop in Cambridge. But each time he offered a price he thought was outrageous, the owner laughed at him. Business was so good that the owner saw no reason to give up the prosperity falafel sandwiches were bringing to him.
In Syria and Lebanon, falafel stand are much the same as hot dog stands in America. There are debates throughout the two countries as to what makes the best falafel sandwich. Whenever I go to visit my family, my younger brother, Feras, who usually pick me up at the airport, will bring me four or five falafel sandwiches, each from a different shop, so I can sample them. There are secret ingredients in some of the shops that make one shop stand out above the others.
Falafel shops are the enemy and the savior of mothers in the Middle East. The savior part comes in when a mother has not yet cooked the evening meal, resulting in a hungry family. That is when someone in the family is sent to bring home enough falafel, with trimmings, to feed everyone at home. Falafel is the enemy to mothers when children would buy a sandwich on the way home, ruining their appetite so that the hard work put in by a mother is wasted. I believe, that how I became over weight. In my way home from school, I would eat couple falafel sandwiches and then, out of respect for my mother time in the kitchen and out of love for her food, I pretend to be hungry and eat dinner with the family.
Falafel sandwich makes a full meal, providing good protein, fiber, vegetables and, with the right kind of sauce, dairy. The trimming consist of pickled turnips, pickled cucumbers, chopped parsley, onions, chopped tomatoes, chopped romaine lettuce and red sumac are added to the sandwich. The usual sauce is made from tahini, with lemon juice and cumin added. Another sauce is made from yogurt, cumin and garlic.
Basic falafel recipes are similar, differing only with the spices that are used. Here is my recipe:
Makes 20 patties
2 cups dried garbanzo beans
1 small onion, chopped
1 cup chopped parsley
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 clove garlic, mashed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
salt to taste
1 tablespoon baking soda
Oil for deep frying
-Soak the beans about eight hours or overnight. Drain the beans, and grind them in a food processor for couple of minutes.
-Add the onions, the parsley, the cilantro and the garlic and continue to grind until finely chopped.
-Scoop the mixture into a bowl, add teh seasoning and the baking soda, mix well, then allow the mixture to rest for 15 minutes.
-Shape the mixture into patties. Each patty should be about 1/2-inch thick and 2-inches in diameter.
-Heat the frying oil in a deep pan and deep-fry about four patties at a time until brown.
-Remove from the oil and place on paper towel to drain some oil.