Falafel is actually an ancient dish introduced into Egypt by the Copts, descendants of the pharaohs, who today make up a community of nine million Egyptian Christians. For some Europeans, Falafel is a bit dry and spicy. But combinations with Hummus and other sauces, Falafel is tasty and healthy. And the Falafel is not expensive and you can buy it everywhere, especially the markets.
Many Israelis like to say that Falafel is a purely Israeli invention, introduced by Yemenite Jews, but that’s not true of course. Chickpeas, garlic, onions-put them together, spice them, fry them, and that’s it. For the European Jewish immigrants who had been used to eating Gefilte Fish, this was a new and delightful taste. But Falafel was too spicy, and mouths were burned.
Today, a Yemenite falafel vendor will always ask, “with zhoug, or without?”. The major difference between Egyptian and Israeli Falafel is the bean. In Egypt, Falafel is made with a flat white bean, called ta’amiya. Ancient seasonings are still used today.
Falafel was introduced to Israel by the Arab population, who were the first people to substitute chickpeas for the white bean. A nineteenth-century photograph shows an Arab Falafel vendor serving the dish in the same way as we eat it today, stuffed into a pita.
Israeli enthusiasm over the chickpea Falafel has made it popular all over the Western world. Falafel vendors throughout Europe and America have given Israeli names to their stands, even though the vendors themselves may be Egyptian, Lebanese, or Jordanian.
- 1 Ib (500 g) chick peas
- 2 medium onions
- 5-8 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 or 2 bunch es parsley (leaves only) and/or cilantro (coriander) leaves
- 2-4 hot red peppers
- 1-2 teaspoons cumin Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- Oil for frying
- Rinse the chickpeas thoroughly, cover with water, and allow to stand overnight.
- The next day, drain the water and rinse the chickpeas again.
- Grind them with the onion, garlic, pepper, and the parsley and/or cilantro (coriander).
- If using an electric or manual grinder, put the ingredients through the grinder twice. A food processor also works well.
- Add the cumin, salt, freshly ground pepper, and baking powder.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and knead thoroughly.
- Allow to rest for 30 minutes.
- Preheat oil in a deep frying pan. Just before frying, work in the baking soda, which helps the Falafel to expand.
- Roll the mixture into small balls or patties, using a specially made Falafel scoop (an ice-cream scoop also works).
- Drop the balls into the hot oil and cook until they are golden.
To serve, stuff the Falafel balls into warm pita and add any of the following:
Tahina Sauce, sliced onion and parsley, cabbage or onion salad, hot and sour pickles, roasted eggplant, or a slice of roasted or fried potato.