Never judge a book (or falafel) by its cover. Before this, I never gave much thought to falafels. They are the round brown balls that look like croquettes or arancini, and are commonly displayed in kebab stalls at the food courts here. I love kebabs, but those falafels just never looked appetizing to me. That was then.
A few weeks ago, a friend decided to introduce me to Lebanese food at Al Aseel, where I ordered the mixed plate, consisting of grilled chicken, lamb and kofta with a variety of dips and tabouli. These were served with some pickles and a side of Lebanese bread. I wasn't a fan of the bright neon-coloured pickles, but everything else was superb. It wasn't until I had almost finished eating that my friend commented how I was not eating it the "proper" way. So, what is the proper way? Well, first you tear off a small triangular piece of bread. With the bread between your fingers, use it to grab some onions and meat, and then scoop up some dip before shoving the whole thing in your mouth. Apparently, the pieces I tore off were too big or the wrong shape, and I wasn't supposed to scoop up the tabouli either, which was supposed to be a salad. Go figure. Well, at least I learnt something new. And my favourite part of the meal? The falafel! Crunch and nutty, it reminded me of Gateaux Piment (a Mauritian snack made with yellow split peas). If I dine there again, I'll remember to order a whole plate of them, as an appetizer of course.
Falafel is a traditional and popular street food in the Middle East, and is generally a ball or patty made with chickpeas, fava beans or both, mixed with herbs and spices, then deep-fried until brown and crisp. There are slight variations between the falafels among the different countries. For example, Egyptian falafels are made with fava beans, whereas Lebanese ones are made with both chickpeas and fava beans (please correct me if I'm wrong!). They also vary in terms of the spices and herbs used.
The recipe that I've adapted is based on the super-tasty falafel at Al Aseel. Super crunchy and super addictive. Serve them with a tangy tahini sauce, or make your own falafel wrap/roll for a complete meal. So good. I will never look at a falafel the same way again.
Click here to continue to the Falafel Wrap recipe.