|Region or state||Middle East|
|Main ingredients||Broad beans or chickpeas|
Falafel (//; Arabic: فلافل, [fæˈlæːfɪl] (listen)) is a deep-fried ball or patty-shaped fritter in Middle Eastern cuisine (especially in Levantine and Egyptian cuisines) made from ground chickpeas, broad beans, or both. Nowadays, falafel is often served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, samoon, or wrapped in a flatbread known as taboon; "falafel" also frequently refers to a wrapped sandwich that is prepared in this way. The falafel balls may be topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a meze tray (assortment of appetizers).
Falafel is eaten throughout the Middle East and is a common street food. Falafel is usually made with fava beans in Egypt, where it most likely originated, and with chickpeas in the Levant and Iraq. It is popular with vegetarians worldwide.
The name Falafel is used worldwide. In English, it is first attested in 1941.
The word falāfil (فلافل) is uncountable, listed as a plural word related to plural word filfil (فلفل "pepper") perhaps from an earlier *filfal, from Aramaic pilpāl, meaning "small round thing", "peppercorn", from palpēl, "to be round", "roll", or borrowed from Persian pilpil (پلپل), from the Sanskrit word pippalī (पिप्पली) "long pepper".
Another theory proposes that the word comes from the Coptic "pha la phel" (Φα Λα Φελ), purportedly meaning "of many beans".
While Falafel [fæˈlæːfel] is the more common name in Alexandria and the Nile Delta, the other name ṭaʿmeyya (طعمية [tˤɑʕˈmejjɑ]) is more common in Cairo, southern Egypt, as well as Sudan. The latter word is also listed as singular, related to the root ṭ-ʕ-m (ط ع م), related to ṭaʿm (طعم "taste").
The word falafel can refer to the fritters themselves or to sandwiches filled with them.
The origin of falafel is controversial. The dish most likely originated in Egypt, possibly influenced by similar Indian dishes. There is a legend that a fava bean version was eaten by Coptic Christians in the Roman era as early as the 4th century during Lent, but there is no documented evidence for this. It has been speculated that its history may go back to Pharaonic Egypt. However, the earliest written references to falafel from Egyptian sources date to the 19th century, and oil was probably too expensive to use for deep frying in ancient Egypt.
As Alexandria is a port city, it was possible to export the dish and its name to other areas in the Middle East. The dish later migrated northwards to the Levant and Iraq, where chickpeas replaced the fava beans.
Falafel is a common form of street food or fast food in Egypt as well as the Levant and Iraq. The croquettes are regularly eaten as part of meze. During Ramadan, falafel balls are sometimes eaten as part of the iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fast after sunset. Falafel became so popular that McDonald's for a time served a "McFalafel" in its breakfast menu in Egypt. Falafel is still popular in the Coptic diet, and as such large volumes are cooked during religious holidays. Falafel is consumed as part of Lent diet by Christians in Arab countries.
Debates over the history of falafel have sometimes devolved into political discussions about the relationship between Arabs and Israeli Jews. In modern times, falafel has been considered a national dish of Egypt, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.
Falafel plays an iconic role in Israeli cuisine and is widely considered to be a national dish of the country. It has been historically been consumed by Mizrahi Jews in the Middle East and North Africa. Later, it was adopted in the diet of early Jewish immigrants to the Jewish communities of Ottoman Syria. As it is plant-based, Jewish dietary laws classify it as pareve and thus allow it to be eaten with both meat and dairy meals. Many Palestinians resent what they see as an appropriation of their dish by Israelis. Additionally, the Lebanese Industrialists' Association has raised assertions of copyright infringement against Israel concerning falafel.
In 2012, one of the hotels in the capital of Jordan, Amman, prepared the world's largest falafel disc weighing about 75 kg – breaking the previous record set at a Jewish food festival in the United States.
In North America, prior to the 1970s, falafel was found only in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Jewish neighborhoods and restaurants. Today, the dish is a common and popular street food in many cities throughout North America.
|Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)|
|Energy||1,393 kJ (333 kcal)|
|Vitamin A||13 IU|
|Pantothenic acid (B5)|
|†Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults. |
Source: USDA FoodData Central
Falafel has become popular among vegetarians and vegans, as an alternative to meat-based street foods, and is now sold in packaged mixes in health-food stores. While traditionally thought of as being used to make veggie burgers, its use has expanded as more and more people have adopted it as a source of protein. In the United States, falafel's versatility has allowed for the reformulating of recipes for meatloaf, sloppy joes and spaghetti and meatballs into vegetarian dishes.
Falafel is made from fava beans or chickpeas, or a combination. Chickpeas are common in most Middle Eastern countries. The dish is usually made with chickpeas in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Iraq and Palestine. This version is the most popular in the West. The Egyptian variety uses only fava beans.
When chickpeas are used, they are not cooked prior to use (cooking the chickpeas will cause the falafel to fall apart, requiring adding some flour to use as a binder). Instead they are soaked (sometimes with baking soda) overnight, then ground together with various ingredients such as parsley, scallions, and garlic. Spices such as cumin and coriander are often added to the beans for added flavor. The dried fava beans are soaked in water and then stone ground with leek, parsley, green coriander, cumin and dry coriander. The mixture is shaped into balls or patties. This can be done by hand or with a tool called an aleb falafel (falafel mould). The mixture is usually deep fried, or it can be oven baked.
Falafel is typically ball-shaped, but is sometimes made in other shapes. The inside of falafel may be green (from green herbs such as parsley or green onion), or tan. Sometimes sesame seeds are added on top of the falafel before frying it.
The pita falafel sandwich was popularized after Israel's independence and in the 1950s by Jewish Yemeni immigrants. Yemeni Jews were the first to introduce the concept of serving falafel in a pita with condiments. A 19 October 1939 The Palestine Post article is the first mention of the concept of falafels served in a pita bread as a street food. When served as a sandwich, falafel is often wrapped with flatbread or stuffed in a hollow pita bread, or it can be served with flat or unleavened bread. Tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, and other garnishes can be added. Falafel is commonly accompanied by tahini sauce.
When made with chickpeas, falafel is high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Key nutrients are calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin C, thiamine, pantothenic acid, vitamin B, and folate. Phytochemicals include beta-carotene. Falafel is high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol.
Chickpeas are low in fat and contain initially no cholesterol, but a considerable amount of fat is absorbed during the frying process. Falafel can instead be baked to avoid the high fat content associated with frying.
The current record, 74.75 kg (164 lb 12+3⁄4 oz), was set on 28 July 2012 in Amman, Jordan. The previous record was 23.94 kg (52 lb 12+1⁄2 oz), 1.17 m (3 ft 10 in) in circumference and 0.3 m (1 ft) in diameter, set at the Santa Clarita Valley Jewish Food and Cultural Festival (US), at the College of the Canyons in Valencia, California, US, on 15 May 2011.
The record, 5,173 kg (11,404 lb 8 oz), was set by Chef Ramzi Choueiri and the students of Al-Kafaat University (Lebanon) in Beirut on 9 May 2010.
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The claim that Indian cooking may have influenced the invention of falafel is reasonable. There are many fried foods in India that predate falafel and that are similar in shape and consistency. British soldiers familiar with vada, ambode, dal ke pakode and other fried foods might easily have experimented and encouraged resourceful Egyptian chefs to come up with a local equivalent.
Falafel are made for religious festivals, especially among Christian communities during Lent when meat is forbidden.
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