How To Make Your Favorite Middle Eastern Street Food At Home
Falafel is everywhere these days. At its roots, falafel is an adored Middle Eastern snack that’s essentially a deep-fried ball of ground chickpeas or fava beans. It’s seasoned with onions, garlic, parsley, cumin, coriander and a bunch of herbs. The comforting snack hails from the Middle East, and more specifically Israel where it’s been historically categorized as street food. Falafel is a go-to source of vegetarian protein, served in a pita and topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce and other tahini-based sauces. Even though it’s deep-fried, falafel is still relatively nutritious if it’s cooked in a healthy olive oil.
Something to remember when you’re making falafel is the simpler the better. The real deal street food doesn’t involve any flour or breadcrumbs. The ingredients are formed into a ball and fried in sizzling oil, which makes it a go-to for gluten-free eaters. The ultimate goal when you’re making your own falafel is to have chickpea balls that are crisp on the outside and light, crumbly and fluffy on the inside. Depending on where you get falafel, there’s a chance it can be dry and you’d have to compensate with all kinds of toppings. What you really want is a perfect ratio of batter to tender chickpea interior.
The first step to good falafel is using dried chickpeas since they have a much stronger flavor. The canned chickpeas will give you the wrong moisture ratio and the falafel won’t cook properly. You should soak them overnight in water, cover them so that the water is a few inches above the beans, drain them the next day and then put them into a food processor.
Now for the spices. Add chopped onion, garlic, salt, either parsley or cilantro, dried ground cumin and coriander. Use your best judgment here. Some might prefer a little more cilantro, while others don’t want anything to do with it. You could substitute cilantro and parsley for herbs like mint, thyme or oregano. You can get creative with the seasonings and steer the falafel in whatever direction you’re comfortable with. When you’re grinding everything up in a food processor, pulse until you reach your desired texture. Make sure it doesn’t get too pasty in the process.
Pinch the chickpea mixture into 1 1/2 to 2 inch balls. Frying is the only way to really achieve that perfect crunch. Use either safflower, canola, grapeseed or olive oil. Add about two to three inches to a large deep saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and heat the oil till it reaches about 350 degrees. Drop in a piece of batter and if it sizzles immediately, you’re good to go.
Fry the falafel balls in batches, making sure to brown each side. Each batch should only take around 5 minutes or so. Serve the falafel hot and fresh or let them reach room temperature. Remember, the more you reheat, the drier they might become so it’s best to eat them right away.