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What Is The History Of Falafel

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What is a falafel and what is the history of falafel? Most readers may have heard about falafel and have eaten it too, while there may be a few who haven’t heard about it. 


What is Falafel? These are fried balls or patties made from ground chick peas (garbanzo beans) or made from fava beans, mixed with spices. Their shapes also vary. It might be served in pockets of flat breads like pita bread pockets. Falafel balls can be served on salads, eaten alone as a snack too. They are fritters and also called as ‘hot dogs of middle east’.


Nutrition of Falafel 


 Falafel has high quality protein and vegetables in addition to carbohydrates and fiber. They are also low in fat and salt containing no cholesterol. The other nutrients present are the essential minerals and beta-carotene. So it is a nutritious street food, especially in a pita pocket form.


History of Falafel


Falafel is believed to have been first made in Egypt known as ‘taamiya’ in Cairo dialect. Now it is eaten all over the Middle East, also popularly as street food too. This was originally considered to be eaten as a substitute for meat during lent. During Ramadan falafel balls are eaten as part of iftar the meal that breaks the fast after sunset. Israel claims falafel as its national food, while Palestinians claim it was stolen from them. So the food war goes on with countries staking claim on it quoting the Bible even leading to ‘food disputes’ between countries. “It wasn’t until thousands of Jews emigrated to Israel in the 1950’s that falafel truly became and Israel emblem. Some of the Jewish settlers in Palestine called themselves ‘Hebrew Bedouins” and donned the headdress imitating the Arabs and their customs. They took to the street food falafel and made it their own” said a scholar and historian. The fact remains that the dish is hugely popular in the Middle East and has spread to other countries.                              


 


The Arabs claim the dish as theirs which subsequently got improvised.


Both the Palestinians and Yemenite Jews in Jerusalem prepare falafel from chickpea not cooked before. They are soaked in baking soda and ground together with onion, parsley, sesame seeds and spices like cumin, chili powder and coriander. Then made into balls or patties and deep fried.


Egyptian falafels are made from fava beans and are spicy with the inclusion of garlic, scallions, leeks and onions with pepper. Cayenne pepper is used in the Alexandria type. Egyptian falafel is mostly a whole wheat pita bread and salad with Tahini sauce.


In Lebanon tabbouleha salad is eaten with falafel. Cucumber, turnip and onions are also included as accessories for this dish.


In Syria Sumac is used in falafel. In other Middle Eastern countries French fries may be included on the side.


Falafel Today: Falafel has become so popular that McDonald serves a version called ‘McFalafel’ in some countries. This exotic food spread to other countries via entrepreneurs to Europe and the USA somewhere in the 1970’s. Falafels are also served like meatballs with tomato sauce in some places, while others may serve hummus or babaghanoush on the side of the dish.


The original Egyptian falafel was made from flava beans but as it moved north is got substituted by the chick peas. New varieties of falafel can be found like the ‘red falafel’ with jalapenos and served with roasted pepper, tomatoes and spicy yogurt sauce. ‘Orange falafel’ is made from sweet potatoes and accompanied by cabbage, honey and ginger tahini sauce.


 


Image Credit: WikimediaCommons,

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