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Falafel fact sheet

At times it is shaped like a ball, sometimes like a flat burger. It may have a pale brown color, or be darksome. It can have a smooth or grainy texture, and be eaten inside a pita or Turkish bread. Make way for hummus’s brother: falafel

Shooky Galili
Published: 07.04.07, 16:22 / Israel Culture

Falafel is the second-most common dish made of chickpeas, after hummus of course. It is eaten in many Arab and Mediterranean countries, each with its own special version.


You can find falafel all around the world today. But when in the US and North Europe, is it usually made by ex-Israelis, Lebanese, Egyptians or Turks. Falafel is very common in these countries (except Turkey).


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Is falafel an Israeli food?

Well, there is that theory about how the ancient Jews invented falafel during their slavery in Egypt, and brought it back with them to the Holy Land. Doesn’t sound too convincing to me, but falafel does owe a lot to Israel, where it is highly popular. In Israel, falafel has first found its way into the pita bread. Israelis were also the first to spread it to Europe and the US, somewhere around the early 1970s.


But where did it come from?

A common 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. Another theory dates the invention of falafel as far as the 6th century AD, or even earlier, placing it on the subcontinent of India, which is known until today for making various chickpea-based dishes. And like anything else - some say it was invented by the ancient Egyptians.


What is falafel made of?

There’s a falafel recipe here which you can check for yourself and see. To make long things short: soaked chickpeas, coriander, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper. When it is greener, it usually means there’s a lot of coriander in it. Some add onions, parsley, paprika and sesame seeds to it. Soaked bread and baking soda are often used to make it more airy.

Typical falafel stand


Even today, Egyptian falafel is made of ful (brown dried broad beans). Surprisingly, not only is the taste pretty similar, but falafel made of chickpeas is also considered healthier.


Is falafel good for you?

Falafel contains around 325 calories for 100 grams. It’s made out of 35 percent water, 30 percent carbohydrates, 15 percent protein and some 20 percent of the rest - which may include some fat and also vitamins and minerals, such as potassium and magnesium. When deep fried, the falafel contains relatively little fat, and when eaten with salad it is both satiating and healthy.


Is there a correct way to eat it?

In Berlin, where it is fairly common, falafel is usually made by Turks. They serve it in a Turkish toasted bread, with salads, and some spicy sauces. In the Middle East, it is eaten inside a pita bread, mainly with vegetable salad and tahini. In Israel you also usually get some French fries, pickles and pickled cabbage. In Arab countries, it is traditionally eaten as a stand-alone side dish.


What makes the different texture in different places?

The best way to make falafel is by grinding the ingredients through a meat grinder. In some places, a simple food processor is used, so the texture is smoother and it is less crunchy.


Click here for Shooky Galili's The Hummus Blog


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