Since Naked Hummus started selling frozen falafel, many of you have been asking the infamous question..."What is Falafel"? This is my version of what falafel is, feel free to have your own version.
When I say to you "American Street Food", what comes to mind? My initial thought was a hamburger, as I associate a hamburger with American food, but they're not really sold on the street. As it turns out, the more people I asked, the more the answer came back the same. The American street food is the hot dog. No doubt about it. When you buy a hot dog on the street, it's essentially meat (or at least you hope so!) in a bun with various toppings on it. If you ask most Americans where to buy their favorite hot dog, they'll have an answer. The answer usually depends on what vendor they got the hot dog from. Let's face it...a hot dog is not a hot dog is not a hot dog. Some vendors sell higher quality meat and have higher quality toppings...not all hot dogs are the same.
It's really similar with falafel. Falafel is the street food of the Middle East. A falafel ball or patty is really just a vegetarian mix of ground up chickpeas, spices, garlic, sometimes breadcrumbs, cilantro and parsley. The ingredients are mixed together and usually fried into a ball or patty. Then they're put inside a pita (pocket bread) with hummus, salad, pickled vegetables and a sesame based sauce called tahini. From there the topping possibilities are endless. Sometimes you'll get french fries inside the pita (my favorite!) and sometimes there will be a serve-yourself topping bar with lots of yummy sauces and pickled vegetable toppings to add to the sandwich. Some falafel sandwiches are stuffed inside the pita and some are rolled up like a burrito. It all depends what the vendor has on hand at the time.
It's quite unclear as to where the falafel originated, some say Egypt, some say Israel, frankly I'm just happy that someone invented it, it's that delicious. The ingredients in falafel differ from nationality to nationality. The Egyptians, for example, use fava beans instead of chickpeas to make their falafel balls. The Lebanese use lots of greens in making their falafel, whereas some other nationalities don't use greens at all in their falafel. Some falafel can be stuffed with meat or pine nuts, which adds its own complexity to the dish. As far as I'm concerned, it's all good.
There have also been contests to see who can make the world's largest falafel ball. The current world record is recorded as 74.75 kilograms (164.4 pounds), and was set on July 28, 2012 in Amman, Jordan. That's one big falafel.
And now that brings us back to the age old question..."Where can you get the best falafel?" Chances are, just like hot dogs, you'll get a different answer every time. In Louisville, KY, though, I'm willing to bet that for a healthier, non-fried option, ours is the tops.