Falafel in Middle Eastern Cuisine
Cuisine from the Middle East covers a wide range, and falafel is definitely something that will be found in cooking there. There is a theory about how this dish originated that is interesting. Some say that possibly Copts (Egyptian Christians) ate falafel as a replacement for meat when it was time for Lent. Later on, the dish moved north toward the Levant, and it was then that chickpeas or garbanzo beans, replaced fava.
Another theory is that falafel may have origins in Indiia. It is a place where chick pea based dishes have been used a lot. It is not as strong of a theory as the first though.
When speaking of Egyptian falafel, it is usually referring to fava beans. It is also true though, that this kind of falafel is made of garbanzo beans, and that it is rather spicy. Usually, you will find ingredients like leeks, onions, garlic and lots of cayenne pepper, which I won't complain about! Pitas are the general way these are served, and the pita is usually whole wheat. With a salad to round it out, it begins to sound better and a bit refreshing even. Often there is a sauce, like a tahini sauce, tahini with added parsley. This is called a bakdooniseya.
Sometimes you will see falafel cooked into a fried ball, or a patty even.
Other than pitas, there is another bread called lafa that falafel may be served with. It is wrapped around the filafel, as opposed to slipping into a pocket of a pita. Some top their falafel with salad, or hot sauce and vegetables (may be pickled). Drizzling with a tahini based sauce is a nice touch. You can eat falafel any of these ways, or even just by themselves. They make a great snack on their own.
Tahini is simply sesames, or a sesame paste that is made of the same. It is kind of like peanut butter, yet no peanuts. Like a "sesame paste butter" almost.
"Fast food" in the Middle East
It didn't take long, for falafel to quickly become a "take away" kind of food. Some have called it fast food in the Middle East. I think of french fries and cheeseburgers as fast food, so they have some countries beat in the health department there.
Many Arab dishes, as well as falafel were readily adopted by Jewish immigrants that came to Palestine. In fact, Israel appears to be the first place where both falafel and pita bread filled with "salads". Falafel has become somewhat important to Israeli cuisine. Its even often considered a national dish there. This has caused some negative feelings with the Palestinians in regards to copyrights.
We know some use fava beans or garbanzo beans for falafel, or a combination of those. In Egypt they use fava beans, but in the major Middle Easter countries they lean towards the garbanzo beans, or chickpeas.
Yemen Jews in Jerusalem usually prepare it with chickpeas, as do the Palestinians. Beans are not cooked before hand, and instead soaked in baking soda. Ground up with onions, parsley, spices and sesame seeds, coriander and cumin adds a lot of flavor.
Whether by hand, or by using a little tool you can do this with called aleb falafel. After this, its time for deep frying.
Falafel can be high in protein as you can imagine with all the chickpeas or garbanzo beans. It is high in protein and fiber. Also, great for getting complex carbohydrates, if that is something you are going for.
Naturally low in salt, cholesterol, and fat, always looking for good things to eat that have those attributes. The main nutrients are folate, calcium, iron, nd Vitamin B. There are phyto chemicals involved as well.
Really, it wouldn't take much to replace burgers from fast food joints with falafel. It can be baked to reduce the fat
Falafel is hearty enough to replace hamburger patties and meatballs in vegetarian dishes.Falafel can be baked to reduce the fat content associated with frying, but doing so will alter the texture and flavor.[