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Falafel balls

Falafel (pronounced /fəˈlɑːfl̩/; Arabic: فلافلArFalafel.ogg falāfil , or in Egyptian and Sudanese Arabic, طعمية Ta'miyya, Hebrew: פָלָאפֶלFalafel) is a fried ball or patty made from spiced fava beans and/or chickpeas. Originally from Egypt,[1] falafel is a popular form of fast food in the Middle East, where it is also served as a mezze.

The Arabic word "falafel" (falāfil) is the plural of فلفل (filfil) 'pepper'.[2] Variant spellings in English include felafel and filafil.

Falafel is usually served in a pita-like bread called lafa, either inside the bread, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flat bread. In many countries falafel is a popular street food or fast food. The falafel balls, whole or crushed, may be topped with salads, pickled vegetables and hot sauce, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a mezze. During Ramadan, they are sometimes eaten as part of an iftar, the meal which breaks the daily fast after sunset.


[edit] History

The actual origins of falafel are not certain; according to the Hebrew-language paper, Ynetnews, "A possible 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was invented some 1000 years ago by the Egyptian Copts, who brought it with them to the rest of the Middle East."[3] Originally made with fava beans in Egypt, the dish later migrated northwards, where chickpeas were introduced instead.[1] The chickpea was used as a food item in the Levant before 4000 BC.[4]

In modern times Falafel has become known, in some circles, as an Israeli national dish. However, a food editor interviewed on the BBC program Cooking in the Danger Zone stated that while it may be considered a "national Israeli dish, (it) is completely Arabic."[5]

[edit] Ingredients

"Falafelia" in Nazareth, Israel

Falafel is made from fava beans or chickpeas or a combination of the two. The Egyptian variation uses fava beans exclusively, while other variations may only use chickpeas; Palestinians and Yemenite Jews have historically made their falafel from only chickpeas, and in Israel today felafel continues to be made from chickpeas.[6] Unlike many other bean patties, in falafel the beans are not cooked prior to use. Instead they are soaked, possibly skinned, then ground with the addition of a small quantity of onion, parsley, spices (including cumin), and bicarbonate of soda, and deep fried at a high temperature. Sesame seeds may be added to the balls before they are fried; this is particularly common when falafel is served as a dish on its own rather than as a sandwich filling.

Recent culinary trends have seen the chickpea falafel have more success than fava bean falafel. Chickpea falafels are served across the Middle East, and have been popularized by expatriates of those countries living abroad. However, fava-bean falafel continue to predominate in Egypt and Sudan and their respective expatriate communities, and Egyptians are fond of deriding chickpea falafel as inferior.[citation needed]

In Israel small 2 1/2 cm spherical balls are made, while in Egypt and among Palestinians larger patties are shaped with a tablespoon or a special scoop with a lever to release them into the hot oil.

[edit] Variations

Falafel production in Ramallah, West Bank

Outside the Middle East, pita bread is often used as a pocket and stuffed with the different ingredients; in Arab countries a round khubz bread, 'eish' in Egypt, is halved, and the two resulting round pieces are used to create a cigar-shaped wrap. In Arab countries, hummus (chickpeas pureed with tahini) is rarely used as a condiment, the usual sauce being tahini (sesame seed paste) thinned with water and lemon. The most common salad ingredients are tomato and parsley. In Lebanon, parsley is mixed with chopped mint leaves. It is also common in Syria and Lebanon to add pickles; the two canonical ones are pickled turnip, colored pink with beetroot, and pickled cucumber. Recently, there has been a new "filled" falafel, its center usually consisting of ground meat or minced onions or a boiled egg. These fillings are wrapped by the uncooked falafel mixture, and then deep fried.

The salads or the pita itself may be seasoned with sumac or salt; alternatively, these may be sprinkled on top. In Syria, sumac is widely used.

[edit] Related dishes

  • Dahi vada is a spiced fritter of fried, soaked lentils served in chilled yoghurt (dahi). The recipe can be the same as felafel (chickpeas, onion, cumin).

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ a b Jodi Kantor (July 10, 2002). "A History of the Mideast in the Humble Chickpea". The New York Times. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B0DE3DF1430F933A25754C0A9649C8B63. Retrieved on 2008-03-23. 
  2. ^ “Falafel.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Accessed on April 6, 2006.
  3. ^ Falafels: Fact Sheet (accessed 21-08-2008)
  4. ^ Brothwell & Brothwell pp. 105-7
  5. ^ BBC Cooking in the Danger Zone: Israel and Palestinian Territories, Page 6
  6. ^ About Israel's signature food--plus, a recipe.

[edit] Bibliography


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