Street Food MONDAY!!!! Today? Falafel. And if you’re not already totally on board, then I can only assume that you’ve never eaten a falafel. Because if you had eaten a falafel? You would already be grabbing your keys to go and buy the ingredients for this.
Because you would know the glory of the falafel pita, and you would not be able to wait another minute before actively trying to bring one into your life.
When I was first daydreaming about starting a street food series, I was trying to come up with a simple way to define what ‘street food’ is exactly. At first I thought maybe it had to be edible using only your hands, but that didn’t stack up.
After a little thinking I realised that the one thing thatall street food shares, is that you have to eat it in this hunched-over, ass-out position. You know the one – elbows out, feet planted wide, leaning forward, kind of like you’re swinging a baseball bat, but in reality you’re just stuffing your face. This is the kind of food that can and will desperately try to stain your shirt, and that’s why we love it – the saucier the better.
A Falafel Pita is like the definition of street food. It’s crunchy, soft, tangy, pickled, steaming, salty, bitter, and sweet all in one mouthful. It’s completely customizable, another mark of good street food.
Don’t like pickles? Leave ‘em off! Spice up your life with a little harissa or hot sauce, throw in a few chunks of fried eggplant, or some pickled chillies if you like. The only important thing is the falafel itself.
Whether you’re in Cairo, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Beirut, Paris, New York or London, the key to a good falafel is the falafel. It’s got to be majorly crunchy and crisp on the outside, and totally tender and light on the inside. The balance between the chickpeas, the spices, the herbs has to be just right.
And once those tender little fritters are wrapped in a downy-soft pita, stuffed with crisp salad, pickles and a thick slathering of tahini sauce? Well, then you know how good a falafel is, and you’d understand why you need to get to the store right now to pick up some chickpeas. GO ON! GO!
- 1 cup (250g) dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
- ½ large onion
- ¼ cup fresh coriander (cilantro)
- 1 tsp sea salt flakes
- 1 tsp cumin
- ½ tsp dried coriander
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2-3 tbsp all purpose flour
- Oil, for frying
- Chopped salad of equal parts tomato, cucumber and red onion, dressed with olive oil and lemon juice
- Pickle spears
- Fresh mint
- Sauce of equal parts tahini, yoghurt, lemon juice and a pinch of salt
- Pita bread
- Place the chickpeas into a bowl, and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Leave overnight (at least 8 hours).
- When you're ready to eat, drain the chickpeas and place them into the bowl of a food processor with all the remaining falafel ingredients.
- Pulse the mixture until the chickpeas are chopped very small - about the size of sprinkles. To test the mixture, turn off the processor, remove the lid and take a spoonful of the mixture. If you squeeze it in your hand it should hold together in a ball, but will collapse if you poke it. If the mixture does not hold together add a little more flour, or if it is too dry, a little water, scrape down the processor and pulse again, until you get a texture that will hold together.
- Prepare your salad and sauce at this point, so they're ready to go when the falafel are hot.
- Pour just under 2 inches of oil into a high sided frying pan, and place over a medium heat and bring up to 350F/180C.
- Scoop tablespoonfuls of falafel mixture, and form them carefully into balls - this is a bit easier if you wet your hands every couple of spoons.
- When the oil is hot, carefully add a few falafel at a time, making sure not to crowd the pan. Cook the falafel until they are golden brown and cooked through, at least 3 minutes all told. Cut one open to ensure they are cooked all the way through.
- When all the falafel are cooked, serve them stuffed generously into a pita, with plenty of salad, pickle spears, fresh mint, and tahini sauce. Apply to face!