Falafel is a fried ball or patty of spiced fava beans or chickpeas. It is a highly popular form of fast food in the Arab East. Falafel is also very common in Israel, being regarded there as a national food. The word "falafel" comes from an Arabic word, meaning pepper.
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, spices, bicarbonate of soda and deep fried at a high temperature. Sesame seeds may be added to the balls before they are fried which is particularly common when falafel is served as a dish in its own right rather than as a sandwich filling.
To make a basic falafel you will need a cup dried peeled fava beans (7 ounces), soaked overnight as well as half a cup dried chickpeas, small onion, finely chopped, minced flat-leaf parsley, minced garlic clove, baking powder, a bit kosher salt, ground cumin and crushed red pepper, olive oil and water. When making falafel, keep in mind that everything be rather dry, otherwise the rissoles or balls will not hold together when you fry them.
After the beans soak, drain them and dry by leaving out on some kitchen or paper towels. During that time let the onions and garlic sit in a strainer for 2 hours to become drained. You may be tempted to use a falafel mix for making these, but this personal rendition is so much more memorable. In addition, for an even more enjoyable variation try making a hummus dip. Just take one large hummus and dice it very fine and add it to yogurt.
Favas give falafel its unique wonderful flavor, but if you have not them at hand, dried white beans, such as cannellini or navy, can be substituted. Some other recipes offer to put on the falafel chopped onions, chopped scallions, chopped garlic, chopped fresh coriander leaves, and chopped fresh parsley leaves. A relish made of chopped tomato, cucumber, green bell pepper, chili pepper, parsley, fresh coriander, and lemon juice can be made too.
Street sellers often offer falafel tucking into pita bread with chopped lettuce and tomato and plenty of tahini sauce or hummus dips. Traditionally falafel is served as a filling ingredient in a pita bread wrap and the term "falafel" commonly refers to this sandwich- falafel in a pita is typical fast food in Middle East.
At home, you can serve it as you like, with vegetables, sauces and whatnot. Along with the falafel balls, which may be crushed onto the bread or added completely, and various toppings are usually included. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a mezze. There is more than one way to stuff a pita with falafel. Hummus, if used, is typically spread on the pita along with any chili sauce as well as a perfect addition to falafel may be salads, ranging from 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 Palestine and Israel, they make falafel with chickpeas. But it is really not very important, which of these countries is falafel`s motherland exactly, cause its spicy delicious flavor seems to unite all best culinary traditions of the Middle East.