Falafel is a popular Middle Eastern food that has gained worldwide recognition in recent years. It is a vegetarian dish made from ground chickpeas or fava beans mixed with herbs and spices, formed into balls or patties, and fried until crispy. Israeli-style falafel, in particular, has its own unique history and modern culture, which we will explore in this blog.
History of Falafel in Israel
The origins of falafel are somewhat disputed, with some sources suggesting that it originated in Egypt, while others claim that it was invented in the Levant region. Regardless of its origins, falafel has become a staple food in Israel and has a long history in the country.
Falafel was first introduced to Israel by Jewish immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. In the early years of the state of Israel, falafel was primarily sold on street corners by Arab vendors. As it gained popularity among Jewish Israelis, it became more mainstream and was eventually incorporated into Israeli cuisine.
In the 1970s and 1980s, falafel became an iconic food in Israel, especially in Tel Aviv, where it was widely available in street food stalls and restaurants. Today, falafel is a ubiquitous food in Israel, enjoyed by people of all backgrounds and religions.
Modern Culture of Israeli Falafel
Israeli-style falafel has a distinct flavor and texture compared to other regional variations. Here are a few key elements of Israeli-style falafel:
- Herbs and Spices: Israeli-style falafel often contains a variety of herbs and spices, including parsley, cilantro, cumin, and coriander. These ingredients add depth of flavor and a fragrant aroma to the falafel.
- Accompaniments: Israeli-style falafel is often served with a variety of accompaniments, such as tahini sauce, hummus, chopped vegetables, pickles, and hot sauce. These toppings add texture, flavor, and a burst of freshness to the dish.
- Bread: In Israel, falafel is typically served in a pita bread pocket, which is stuffed with falafel balls, salad, and various sauces. The pita bread is usually warmed before being filled, creating a soft and pillowy texture that complements the crispy falafel.
Making Israeli-Style Falafel at Home
Now that we’ve explored the culture of Israeli-style falafel let’s learn how to make it at home:
- 1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- Salt to taste
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Pita bread, hummus, tahini, chopped vegetables, and hot sauce for serving
- Drain the soaked chickpeas and rinse them under cold water. Place them in a food processor along with the chopped onion, minced garlic, parsley, cilantro, cumin, coriander, baking soda, and a pinch of salt.
- Pulse the mixture until it is finely ground but not pureed, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Transfer the falafel mixture to a bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the mixture for at least 1 hour (or up to overnight) to allow the flavors to meld and the mixture to firm up.
- When ready to cook the falafel, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil in a deep