Learn more about Falafel
Falafel (Arabic: فلافل , Hebrew: פלאפל falafel, also known in Egypt and Sudan as طعمية ta`amiyya), is a fried ball or patty made from spiced fava beans and/or chickpeas. It is a highly popular form of fast food in the Arab East and Israel, and is also served as a mezze or snack. Falafel is very common in Greater Syria and it is the most popular daily food in Syria. The word "falafel" is the plural of the Arabic word فلفل (filfil), meaning pepper.<ref>“Falafel.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000. Accessed on April 6 2006.</ref>
Falafel is usually served in a pita bread wrap (i.e. sandwich), and the term "falafel" commonly refers to this sandwich by synecdoche; falafel in a pita is typical street food or fast food. Along with the falafel balls, which may be crushed onto the bread or added whole, various toppings are usually included. 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.
Despite initial reluctance by both Arabs and Israelis, falafel is now seen as a uniting, pan-Middle-Eastern dish due to the inherently different cultures and cuisines of the two areas. In recent years, immigration from the Middle East to Western countries has brought with it a broader availability of Arab and Middle Eastern cuisine, and the falafel sandwich has become a popular and iconic food within alternative fast food or slow food movements, and indeed has spread world-wide.
They are also used as a "vegetarian" alternative filler to a Doner kebab many countries.
Falafel is made from fava beans or chick peas or a combination of the two. The Egyptian variation uses exclusively fava beans, while other variations may only use chick peas. 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, 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 in its own right rather than as a sandwich filling.
Recent culinary trends have seen the triumph of the chickpea falafel over the fava bean falafel. Chickpea falafels are served across the Middle East, and popularized by expatriates of those countries living abroad.
 Topping variations
There is more than one way to stuff a pita with falafel. Hummus with tahini, if used, is typically spread on the pita along with any chili sauce. Falafel and salads are then added. Salads range from a simple tomato-and-cucumber mix to pickled eggplants. In Syria and Lebanon, the typical filling is tahini or hummus (or both), tomato, lettuce, cabbage, pickles and lemon slices. In Israel, Lebanon, and the UAE, french fries are a frequent addition. Recently, there has been a new "filled" falafel, its center usually consisting of ground meat or minced onions. 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 applied to the top. In Syria, sumac is practically a universal accompaniment to falafel, whether in a sandwich or otherwise.
 Related dishes
- In Indian cuisine, ambode is a fried ball of soaked chickpeas, similar to falafel. It is usually flattened and pan-fried, and served with chutney. Alternatively, in the South Indian cuisine, paruppu vadai is used to refer to flattened, fried balls (or fritters) of a mix of lentils and chickpeas.
- Acarajé, an Afro-Brazilian street food from the northeastern state of Bahia, is similar to felafel, but made from black-eyed peas formed into a ball and then deep-fried in palm oil.
- In Italian cuisine, frittata di ceci (chickpea fritter) is very similar to falafel.
 Current events
- Some reports from June 2006 state that in Iraq, some groups, referred to as conservative Islamist groups, are proposing the banning of falafel.<ref>"Ban the falafel?", The Washington Times, 11 June, 2006</ref>
- A sexual harassment suit filed by Andrea Mackris states that Bill O'Reilly confused a falafel with a luffa.
 See also
- Yael Raviv, "Falafel: A National Icon", Gastronomica, Summer 2003, 3:3:20-25. Discusses how an Arab dish became "the national food of Israel".