Everything you need to know about falafel
Crunchy and flavourful, falafel is a great appetizer available from its classic fried version to healthier options
At the recently celebrated International Falafel Day on June 12, 2022, we saw our social media feeds abuzz with this dish’s lip-smacking images and videos. However, do you know its origin, types or even its healthier options? A Middle Eastern cuisine, Falafel is a deep-fried ball or patty-shaped fritter made from ground chickpeas or broad beans. Paired with pickled vegetables, lettuce, garlic or tahini-based spread inside a pita pocket, it is savoured either as a snack or as part of a meze tray under an assortment of appetizers. “It’s a classic Lebanese dish which has become popular all over the world. However, interestingly, the preparation has not changed over the years, keeping the essence of the dish intact. In fact, the humble chickpea still remains to be the main element in the Levantine cuisine whereas fava beans are used in Egypt. There may be versions where the Indian Bengal Gram is used as a substitute to chickpea. But, a classic remains a classic!” says Chef Aditi Chatterjee, Welcomhotel Sheraton, New Delhi.
Types of falafel
There are three types of falafel--Traditional falafel, baked falafel and lemon falafel. “Where the traditional falafel is the basic fried falafel comprising a mix of chickpeas, onions, garlic, herbs and spices, baked falafels are made using fresh herbs in the chickpea mixture,” says Chef Sati from Ophelia. Spraying baked falafels with olive oil before baking makes them crispy. Also, if you have a herb garden, you can use scallions, garlic, parsley, and cilantro with it. “Lemon falafel, on the other hand, is made using basic falafel ingredients along with yellow peas,” she says. Mince both together and add lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemon mayonnaise for a delightful flavor. Other popular flavor additions to lemon falafel are hickory wood liquid smoke, spice mix and tarragon.
The health component
While falafel is a deep-fried snack, its healthier options are available too for the health-conscious. “Falafel has high fibre and carbohydrates content. Instead of deep-frying it in oil, you can just air fry or bake it,” says Gagandeep Singh Bedi, Executive Chef, Roseate House, New Delhi, adding, “Putting quinoa in the chickpea mixture also makes it healthy. You can also add khus khus, beetroot or green peas.” A falafel can be made as a healthy protein snack when mixed with homemade sprouts or variations of flavored pita. “Multigrain pita, or the rye or millet pita, complemented with a variety of pickled vegetables, is a healthy option,” says Chef Riayaz Shaikh, The Leela Palace, New Delhi.
With a twist
Falafel can also be made by giving a different spin to the standard recipe. “It can be very flavorful with diced butternut squash and kale. Adding walnut or pistachios can be great too,” says Shaikh. To elevate its taste, add assorted mushroom and truffle to the chickpea mixture and balance it with creamy truffle tahini dip. Dip can also be served with garlic ranch or beetroot fried ranch. “For a hardcore seafood lover, freshly chucked king alaska poached lobster in falafel mixture, served with coriander scented rouille will be a great option too,” concludes Shaikh.
How to make falafel at home?
1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 cup onion, roughly chopped
1 cup parsley, roughly chopped
1 cup coriander, roughly chopped
1 small green chili
3 big garlic cloves
2 tbsp chickpea flour
1 tsp cumin (slightly roasted)
½ tsp baking soda
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp black pepper
Oil for frying
-Soak the chickpea overnight in water
-Drain and rinse chickpeas and add them to your food processor, along with onion, parsley, cilantro, chilli, garlic, cumin, salt and black pepper; it is recommended to “pulse” rather than run the processor in one go
-Transfer the falafel mixture to a bowl and add the chickpea flour and baking soda. Stir the mixture and cover with a lid and later refrigerate it for 30 minutes to one hour
-Now, use your hands to form the falafel into balls or patties. If you find the mixture too wet, add another tablespoon of chickpea flour
-Slightly flatten them from the top and fry in hot oil
-Serve it with your choice of dip--hummus, garlic mayonnaise, labneh
Tips to keep in mind:
-Do not use canned beans; soaked dried beans are always better
-Use fresh herbs for a flavourful falafel
-It is important for the mixture to rest well in the refrigerator. This will make it easy to shape them
-Fry a small ball of falafel first to check the seasoning and consistency
-Use an icecream scoop in case you don’t want to use your hands
-Along with using the leaves of coriander, you can use the stems too as they are packed with flavors; just remember to clean them well under running water
(Inputs by Chef Aditi Chatterjee)