One dish every tourist who’s visited the Middle East tries and never forgets is the falafel, a vegetable fritter made from chickpeas. When a local or tourist considers something fast, delicious and satisfying to eat in the Middle East, the first thing that comes to mind is falafel, the ‘Big Mac’ of the Arab countries. A popular meal among the Arabs, falafel has become a staple in most fast food stands, the same way hamburger joints are popular in the ‘west’.
Unlike the hamburgers, falafel is a vegetable based fritter, made from chickpeas. Also, unlike hamburgers, falafel is actually healthy, because chickpeas are a rich source of protein, minerals and vitamins.
Falafel is crispy and crunchy on the outside, fluffy and savory on the inside.It goes well alone, a past time snack, or in sandwiches made with pita bread, hummus, tomatoes, pickles and sesame paste (tahina) toppings.
For those of you who’ve always wondered about that delicious chickpeas fritter, below is a step by step way on how to make falafel from scratch.
- Two cups of dry chickpeas – canned or cooked won’t work
- 1/2 cup of fresh, chopped parsley
- One medium sized onion, chopped
- Three garlic cloves, diced
- ½ teaspoon of salt
- ½ teaspoon of baking soda
- ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
- A pinch of cumin
- Oil, enough to fry and cover the balls
- Wash then soak the chickpeas for at least four hours in a large bowl, or until it doubles in size. Make sure you have at least three inches of water covering the chickpeas (it is easier to soak it overnight).
- In a food processor, add the now drained chickpeas and let it ground.
- Add the parsley, the onion, the garlic, pepper, salt, baking soda and cumin.
- Pulse it a few times, scraping the sides every now and then. The texture should be like that of a coarse meal, not a paste.
- Remove it and place it on a bowl, let it rest, covered for about forty-five minutes.
- Heat the oil in a deep pan and start preparing the balls. You can either do it by hand or with a falafel scoop. If you do it by hand, use a spoonful for each ball, or a spoon and a half.
- Add the balls into the hot oil and let it fry until it’s golden brown in color.
- Place them on a paper towel.
- Eat hot.
For a falafel pita sandwich, open the pita bread on one side until it resembles a pocket. Spread Hummus inside, add falafel, tomatoes slices, pickles and top it with a thin layer of sesame paste.