Serves a Crowd

Authentic Egyptian Falafel

September 14, 2020
0 Ratings
Photo by Hajar D.
Author Notes

Is there anything better than a fresh, crispy, spicy Falafel sandwich? It's an old street food served all over the world. Though originating in the Middle East, you can get amazing Falafel in the village in NYC or Le Marais in Paris. It's made in innumerable different ways, topped with a myriad of salads, sauces, and pickles, and enjoyed by millions around the world. A food of the working class, families, and hipsters alike! Vegan, vegetarian, inexpensive, and widely available...what's NOT to like?

The most flavorful Falafel (IMHO!) comes from Egypt -- primarily because ONLY Egyptians make their Falafel with fava beans as opposed to chickpeas, like the rest of the Arab world. Fava beans are beautiful in that they have a more neutral flavor (not sweet like chickpeas) and absorb more moisture so yield a much less dry Falafel.

And, if the best Falafel is in Egypt, then the BEST place to get it is from this stall at the end of my grandparents' street in Beni Suef, Egypt. The owner, Ashour, would stand with his cart on the corner of the vegetable market. Each night, Ashour would take fresh herbs and onions home to make a new batch of magic Falafel in his home. He would be out selling scrumptious ta'ameya (as it's called in Egypt) by 6 am. The smell of fried onions, parsley, cilantro, and dried coriander wafting down the street was absolute *heaven* until you got to bite into the crispiest, lightest Falafel ever in existence.

Each morning, my brother would stop by my grandparents' home on his way to school. Geddo (our grandpa) would give him a couple of Egyptian pounds and my brother would walk down the street to get fresh pita bread, then make his way to Ashour's cart. My brother would fashion a paper cone out of yesterday's newspaper, and carefully load 15 (piping hot, fresh out of the oil) Falafels into the cone and close it. He would run back to Geddo's house, sneaking in one (or five!) perfect vegetarian meatballs as he went. He would drop off breakfast for our grandparents and make his way to school. Literally, every. Single. Day. He was the lucky kid while I ate a dry sandwich with feta cheese for breakfast -- but that is for another day :)

So, my mom and I have been working on recreating this recipe for a decade or two -- as close as we've gotten to Ashour's ta'ameya. This is what we do during blizzards when other families make banana bread: We batch make Falafel and freeze for the year.

For the first time this year, my 12-year-old daughter Sophie joined us and made the Falafel mix from start to finish. Now she knows all about Ashour, newspaper cones, and the magic and nostalgia of Falafel -- and the importance of family, food, and memories.

Bel hana wel shefa (Arabic: enjoy it with happiness and good health) —Hajar D.

  • Prep time 1 hour
  • Cook time 30 minutes
  • Serves 6 + several servings to freeze
Ingredients
  • Preparing the Falafel Mix (makes about 3-4 falafel meals)
  • 2 pounds split, peeled fava beans (available in Middle Eastern and South Asian grocery stores, or on Amazon)
  • 1 bunch cilantro, washed and spun dry
  • 1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley, stems removed, washed and spun dry
  • 4 scallions, washed and patted dry (optional)
  • 3 medium onions, peeled and quartered
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Frying Falafel
  • 3 cups fresh falafel mix (see above)
  • 4 cups vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander (coarse, if possible)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
  • 1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs (optional, if needed to firm up falafel mix)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Preparing the Falafel Mix (makes about 3-4 falafel meals)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, rinse dried fava beans in tap water 2-3 times. Do not touch the beans during this process.
  3. Cover with tap water (should be 2 inches above beans) and soak overnight.
  4. Drain water from soaked beans and rinse 1-2 times, again without touching the beans. Drain completely.
  5. In a large-capacity food processor, add 2 cups of soaked beans at a time. Process until they resemble coarse meal. Remove to a large mixing bowl and process in batches until all the beans have been blended.
  6. Add the cilantro to the food processor. Mix until finely chopped. Add to the bowl with the beans.
  7. Add the parsley to the food processor. Mix until finely chopped. Add to the bowl with the beans and cilantro.
  8. Add the scallions, onions, and garlic to the food processor. Mix until pureed. Add to the bean/herb mixture.
  9. With a wooden spoon or gloved hand, mix all the ground beans, herbs, onions and garlic until thoroughly combined.
  10. Process the coarse falafel mixture in the food processor, working in batches, until the texture becomes more fine. Do not overfill the food processor to ensure even texture. Empty the fine falafel mixture into a separate mixing bowl.
  11. Once all the falafel has been processed into a fine paste, mix all the batches together so the mixture has one, homogeneous texture.
  12. Either move to Step 2 of this recipe (frying) or freeze the falafel mix. This recipe yields about 3-4 meals' worth of Falafel mix.
  13. To Freeze: Choose a zip-top bag appropriate for the portion size you'd like (from snack, sandwich, quart or gallon-size -- for our family I use quart size). Load each bag 3/4 full with falafel mix. Expel all extra air in the bag, then zip closed. Lay flat and flatten completely. Freeze for up to 6 months.
  1. Frying Falafel
  2. If using fresh falafel mix, please skip this step. For frozen falafel, defrost overnight in refrigerator on a plate to catch any drainage. Empty defrosted mixture into a mixing bowl.
  3. Preheat the oil in a medium-sized, deep pot on medium heat (or an electric deep fryer). Do not fill the pot more than halfway with oil.
  4. Stir the falafel mixture together; add all the seasonings/spices and mix thoroughly. If mix appears watery or thin, add a few sprinkles of breadcrumbs until it holds together.
  5. Form falafel into balls (1/2 inch round) or discs (1 inch round, 1/4 inch thick) and smooth all over. Tap some sesame seeds to the outside of the falafel (optional).
  6. When the oil is hot, carefully drop one falafel at a time into the hot oil. Fry at medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden/dark brown in color. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  7. Continue frying batches of falafel, a few at a time (careful not to allow them to touch during frying) -- until all the falafel is done.
  8. Serve falafel HOT immediately, along with Shepherd's salad, tahini sauce, and pita bread.

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