Normally, and by normally, I mean the last and only two food columns I’ve written here so far, I’ve come in all excited about something delicious and I share a recipe and we chat. This time, I am turning the tables. This time, I need your help.It all comes back to the chickpea, but while I am perfectly capable of destroying, crushing, and smashing this amazing foodstuff, I am completely at a loss when it comes to frying it. Oh yes, I am talking about the one, the only, the completely unmatched falafel.
Falafel is made from blended chickpeas, herbs, and spices, which are molded into balls just large enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand. I’m not getting into where it originated because that is a highly contentious debate ““ Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, India, who knows. Heck, even today’s falafel is a fightin’ food, with Lebanese and Israeli chefs battling for the most/largest falafel. (Blogger’s note: with all due respect to Israeli chefs everywhere, who cares about the largest falafel? Wouldn’t the size hinder appropriate frying? I mean, I saw a picture of the largest falafel and it looks like a loaf of bread, which seems less appealing than toasty garbanzo-balls.)
Falafel is so widely known and so wildly popular that falafel restaurants seem almost ubiquitous. There’s one right beside my grad school’s campus ““ soft pita, fresh tomatoes, a heady lovely tahini sauce “¦ ah, too good. If I lived in the Middle East, I could buy McFalafel from McDonalds, which, you know, if told to order on a dare, I totally would. And this is where I get to my problem: as much as I love going out to get food, I would really like to make a falafel of my own one day, but so far, my attempts have ended in disaster.
I’ve tried quite a few things: internet recipes, cookbook recipes, those pre-made boxes of falafel mix that scream, “just add water and fry me, baby!” Still nothing. I can make a pretty delicious paste in most cases (but not all, not by a long shot), but the frying? The frying just ends in the whole thing falling apart and me being left with this weird mostly burnt falafel-crumble. You know, if it weren’t mostly burnt, I’d just scoop those dregs into a pita and have at it, but as it is, it’s basically inedible.
So, how do you like your falafel? Do you make falafel at home, and if yes, care to share any helpful tips or tricks?