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Falafel

2008 July 20
by taiyyaba

Drool over the sister post on shawarma!

Chickpeas are not the most exciting legume ever. Sure, hummus has become popular at sandwich shops everywhere. (And, as another example of “lost in translation” cultural foods, “hummus” just means “chickpea” in Arabic, not “pureed chickpea-and-tahini spread”). And hummus-the-spread-or-dip is really a matter of personal taste (consistency? how much tahini? how much garlic? lemon juice?) so there is no guarantee that even “well made” hummus will be good.

BUT. There is one kind of chickpea food that I really do enjoy, almost every time.

Fresh Fried Falafel

Falafel!

“Wait, Cup of Tea,” you say. “Those look like donuts.” Well, authentic falafel like you can get in Syria have holes in the middle so that the little patty cooks evenly. Plus, you can also stick them on your index finger and eat around it (come on, you were thinking it. I also used to do that with Bugles. Remember those?)

Falafel is the plural of “filfil,” which means “pepper” in Arabic. The little golden brown, crunchy-on-the-outside, soft-and-savory-on-the-inside patties are popular at breakfast by themselves, or for other meals/snacks wrapped into a pita. The hearty, earthy taste and crunch of the little falafel rounds is highlighted by the fresh cucumber, tomato, and sour-sweet pickled radishes. Top it all off with a special sauce and….oh my…..you’ll miss it as soon as you walk away.

(All the pretty pictures won’t fit on the main page, so click for the rest of the post!)

While Ameir and I were in Syria, we stayed with my friend Maryam (who also happens to be Ameir’s sister, but she was my friend before she was my sister-in-law). She took me to the corner falafel shop, called “Falafel An-Noor,” The Falafel of Light (yeah. that was really the name. See the sign?). There’s usually a falafel shop on every street corner, churning out thousands of these little yummies per day.

Falafel

Mohamed (R) and Ahmed (L) of Falafel An-Noor in Damascus, near Jamiah Abu-Noor. They wouldn’t let us pay for our falafel after we talked to them for so long, but we made them take our money anyway.

I asked the two cousins who were working at the family shop if I could take some pictures and if they’d tell me how they make the falafel. With classic Syrian hospitality, they obliged, repeating “Ahlan wa Sahlan” (“You’re our family, welcome!”) the whole way through.

Mohamad filling the falafel shaper

Mohamad, the falafel maker, told me that he soaks dried chickpeas in water overnight, then grinds them into a paste with garlic, parsley, salt, and cilantro. Then, he fills the paste into a little falafel mold and pushes the patty into oil to fry. When they float to the top and get golden brown, he takes them out and passes them to his cousin Ahmed.

Ahmed puts the fresh, hot falafel onto big rounds of thin pita bread, mashing down the falafel a little to spread them evenly. He adds layer by layer of colorful garnishes: cucumber, tomato, and hot-pink pickled radishes. (These are also the things that come packed in little bags when you buy falafel for breakfast). He adds a sprinkle of sumak, shattah (a spicy chili sauce), and then tops the whole thing off with a generous drizzle of garlicky tahini yogurt sauce.
Ahmed wraps up the pita and hands it to you with an icy-cold Master Cola. (It tastes just like Coke!) Ahhh…icy cold. Can’t get any better than this!

2 Responses leave one →
  1. samra permalink
    July 24, 2008

    *wiping off drool from the keyboard*

  2. Raihana permalink
    August 21, 2013

    Assalaamu alaykum. Subhanallah it’s so nice to find this. I used to go to abu nour in 09-10. And this was my favorite spot for lunch. I remember these brothers I ordered from them almost every day. Theyre falafel was the best ive ever had. i pray theyre ok. I miss Syria. May Allah help the people of Syria.ameen

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