Falafel? Fal-awesome.

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?

24 replies on “Falafel? Fal-awesome.”

I don’t think anyone else has mentioned this, but I’m pretty sure my favorite falafel is deep fried. Pretty sure because of course my favorite would be the least healthy. But when it gets that dark brown on the outside while still being nice and green on the inside, I can’t see how they could have done it any other way.

In order to help them fry you need to add flour!!

Make sure it looks a little dry, then fry ’em up. I have a recipe that I thought was my mom’s, but apparently I completely changed everything and my roommates and friends are convinced that I could win a contest.

Coriander and Cumin baby, also a special falafel sauce.

I just had falafel for dinner a few hours ago! I used a boxed mix (Ziyad brand, from an Indian import store so I have no idea how widely available it is, but I’ve also found a good brand at Shaw’s!) and it fried up just fine. Are you letting the mixture sit for a good 20-30 minutes after mixing and before frying? If you’re using a dry mix, that step is important to let the water soak in and plump everything up. I wish you delicious falafel luck!

Turn the heat down! If they’re breaking up, sometimes it’s because the bubbles are moving so fast and strong that they tear the falafel apart. Turn it down a bit.

Also, the greatest falafel recipe ever created is here:

It’s an untraditional falafel, with large pieces of chickpeas and cilantro and onions in the mix, instead of being like a puree. But seriously, it will change your life–it is that good.

Oh maaan I fucking adore falafel. I actually made it for the first time ever a few weeks ago! The first four balls that I fried ended up in the trash from being burned, so I figured that I needed to turn the stove down a bit.
I made a bunch, ate a few, and saved some to fry for later. I figured no one else in my family would want to eat them since my family is super picky. Well, my mom came upstairs later and asked me to make more for dinner, and I’m all “What?? No. Dad won’t like them.” because my dad is notoriously picky. He ended up eating most of them himself!! And it was the first time I ever made them! I was so proud of myself.

I kept telling myself he only ate them because they looked enough like chicken nuggets, haha!

Mine only fell apart a little bit when I put them in the oil. I think I take Amy’s advice on adding an egg to bind the ingredients a bit more next time!

I have never been able to do it. I adore falafel. I first had it in New Zealand at a kebab stand and I was in love. We have a middle eastern restaurant or two here in Athens, GA that makes some pretty great falafel and I’m totally hooked. I have tried many times to make it. I, too, have used fresh chickpeas, canned chickpeas, boxed mix and everything in between and they never turn out right. They don’t fry up firm, or they taste terrible.

But then, I can’t make hummus for shit either. Even if I follow the recipe EXACTLY.

I can make some rockin’ tabouli though, which is good because its my favorite.

You know, I think making rockin tabouli and being able to buy delicious falafel makes up for not being able to make the falafel. As for the hummus – there were some great tips in the post last week in the comments (thanks amazing commenters!). I don’t know if you saw it or if you want to try hummus-making again, but I figured I’d give those tips a plug.

And I am really glad I am not alone with the falafel problems!

I’m going to pretend that my falafel post on tumblr inspired you because it makes me feel special.

And that’s all I have to contribute. Oh, and also my beau’s roommate says the greener the better (so tons of parsley and cilantro). I personally don’t care for green falafel, though. But perhaps it’s worth experimenting.

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