Falafel is a fried ball or
patty made from spiced chickpeas and/or fava beans. Originally from Egypt,
falafel is a popular form of street food or fast food in the Middle East.
Left: Falafel balls.
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. 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.
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 use only chickpeas. Palestinians and Yemenite Jews in Jerusalem
historically made their falafel from chickpeas and parsley only, as in Syria and
Lebanon, and this continues to be how falafel is known
throughout the Levant today.
Unlike many other bean patties, in falafel, the beans are not
cooked prior to use. Instead they are soaked with bicarbonate of soda, then
ground with the addition of a small quantity of onion, parsley, and spices such
as cumin and coriander. The mixture is shaped into balls or patties, then deep
fried. Sesame seeds are sometimes added before frying; this is particularly
common when falafel is served as a dish on its own rather than as a sandwich
Recent culinary trends have seen the chickpea supplant the fava bean in
popularity. Chickpea falafel is served across the Middle East and has been
popularized by expatriates of those countries. However, fava-bean falafel
continue to predominate in Egypt and Sudan and their respective expatriate
Left: Falafel production in Ramallah,