Falafel is a staple Middle Eastern dish and a popular street food around the world.
It consists of fried spiced balls or patties of ground chickpeas or fava beans (or a mixture of both) stuffed into a pita or wrapped in laffa bread with hot sauce, tahini sauce, and generally some saladlike combination of tomato, lettuce, cucumber, onion, parsley, and yogurt.
Falafel may refer either to the balls or patties or to the sandwich. Variations on the dish abound. In Egypt, for example, fava beans are typically used, while Israeli falafel sandwiches are usually made from chickpeas and include more accoutrements.
The chickpea is an annual legume. Its different types are variously known as gram or Bengal gram, garbanzo or garbanzo bean, or Egyptian pea. Chickpea seeds are high in protein. It is one of the earliest cultivated legumes, and 9500-year-old remains have been found in the Middle East. The word hummus means chickpea in Arabic.
The faba bean, is a species of flowering plant in the pea and bean family Fabaceae. It is widely cultivated as a crop for human consumption, and also as a cover crop. Broad beans have a long tradition of cultivation in Old World agriculture, being among the most ancient plants in cultivation and also among the easiest to grow. Along with lentils, peas, and chickpeas, they are believed to have become part of the eastern Mediterranean diet around 6000 BC or earlier.
The word “falafel” may descend from the Arabic word falāfil, a plural of the word filfil, meaning “long pepper.”
The name “falafel” is used world-wide. In English, it is first attested in 1941.
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 Copts as early as the 4th century during Lent, but there is no documentary 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 name to other areas in the Middle East. The dish later migrated northwards to the Levant, where chickpeas replaced the fava beans.
Beginning in the 1950s, falafel was made popular by the Yemeni Jews, as they began serving falafel balls in pita. Because of this easy and fast recipe, falafel became a common street food in the Middle East.
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
Today, falafel is served on almost every other street in Israel and is very popular throughout the whole world.
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.
Debates over the history of falafel have sometimes devolved into political discussions about the relationship between Arabs and Israelis. In modern times, falafel has been considered a national dish of Egypt, Palestine, and Israel. Many Palestinians resent what they see as the appropriation of their dish by Israelis. Additionally, the Lebanese Industrialists’ Association has raised assertions of copyright infringement against Israel concerning falafel.
Falafel became so popular that McDonald’s for a time served a “McFalafel” in its breakfast menu all over Egypt.
Falafel is high in many micronutrients and a good source of fiber and protein. As such, it may help curb your appetite, support healthy blood sugar, and lower your risk of chronic disease. Yet, it’s typically deep-fried in oil, which raises its fat and calorie content.
A 100-gram (3.5-ounce) serving of 6 small patties of falafel contains 333 calories.
The largest falafel weighs 101.5 kg (223 lb 12.3 oz), and was achieved by Hilton Dead Sea Resort & Spa (Jordan) in the Dead Sea, Jordan, on 31 May 2019.
The largest serving of falafel was 5,173 kg (11,404 lb 8 oz) and was achieved by Chef Ramzi Choueiri and the students of Al-Kafaat University (all Lebanon) in Beirut, Lebanon, on 9 May 2010. The falafel was made by around 300 student chefs under the direction of Chef Ramzi, and served on the new largest ceramic plate, which measured 7.17 m in diameter and was created by local architect, Joe Kabalan.