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How do you like your Falafel?


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Assorted quibbles include falafel, or seasoned chickpea patties, that come off as unrelievedly bitter when tucked into a sandwich that is then crisped in a big heat press

From a restaurant review in today’s Houston Chronicle.

Falafel sandwiches or wraps are an all time favorite of mine. I like them at any time of day and I usually like them simple with tahini sauce, pickles (cukes and turnip), tomato and fresh parsley. These ingredients should be wrapped in SOFT pita bread. The reason I emphasize soft is because pretty much any restaurant (Lebanese or otherwise) seems to have this horrible idea that the wrap should be pressed in a sandwich press!! This is not a Cuban sandwich and no Lebanese joint in Beirut would EVER dream of toasting a falafel sandwich or Shawarma sandwich for that matter.

The pleasure from eating a Falafel wrap has a lot to do with the texture and temperature contrasts. The soft bread contrasts nicely with the crunchy patties and pickles, also the hot patties play very well against the cooling sauce and tomatoes. All this is lost when the whole thing is crushed, toasted and heated.

Ok, rant is over.

So how do you like your falafel sandwich? Toasty or Soft? What garnishes are a favorite of yours? Maybe that will expand my horizons beyond my regular accompaniments.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Interesting you should bring up the texture of the pita. I think it's best when is it's very soft and fresh. I had falafel over the weekend and the pita was toasted and almost crunchy. It was very disappointing. :sad:

There's a place in my neighborhood that gives you the option of ordering your falafel in a lafa which a large, squarish bread that has no pocket. The lafa is warmed and has a really good texture. My ideal fillings in addition to the falafel balls are israeli salad, tehina, hummus, fried eggplant, and cucumber pickles. I don't like lettuce in my falafel.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I like the pita soft, but it is hard to eat it neatly even if the pita is soft and not over-stuffed. A local Lebanese place gives you a choice of having it as a wrap with shepard's bread or in a pita. They don't grill/press the wrap (never even seen that), and it holds together as a sandwich much better than pita.

However, the most common way we have falafel is from a local Jewish pizza/salad bar place. The falafel is in its own section of the salad bar. When you order a falafel sandwich they give you a plate with a pita on it and you get to load it up how you like. However, they toast the pita in the pizza oven, so I usually end up breaking it apart and wrapping bites of falafel and salad in the toasted bread. This isn't my favorite way ever, but my favorite cheap way to eat falafel near home.

My favorite way to eat falafel is off a cart in Israel. Even cheaper for the sandwich, but the airfare makes it cost prohibitive. :wink:

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My ideal fillings in addition to the falafel balls are israeli salad, tehina, hummus, fried eggplant, and cucumber pickles.

A crispy Pita with Falafel is alwasy dissapointing to me as well. These sound very good, what exactly goes into Israeli salad?

Rachel-

I love the Falafel bar idea (I chose to ignore the crispy Pita for now :smile:). I wonder how come we do not have them here in Houston? Maybe I should open one up.

I am a little confused about not being able to eat it neatly though? Even the largest Falafel sandwiches I've had were not harder to eat than a regular burger. Is the falafel not wrapped properly maybe?

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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what exactly goes into Israeli salad?

It's tomato and cucumber diced, sometimes with some scallion and then tossed with olive oil and a bit of parsley and lemon juice is optional.

"Some people see a sheet of seaweed and want to be wrapped in it. I want to see it around a piece of fish."-- William Grimes

"People are bastard-coated bastards, with bastard filling." - Dr. Cox on Scrubs

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I am a little confused about not being able to eat it neatly though? Even the largest Falafel sandwiches I've had were not harder to eat than a regular burger. Is the falafel not wrapped properly maybe?

The pita always rips on me. Always. Also, it's hard to get bites with both falafel and salad in them, usually one or the other. A platter is just easier.

Yes, you should open a falafel bar. Every city should have one.

Pictures of the falafel bar are on this thread.

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Can I just say I find the name "La Fendee" very cute?

I am a falafel purist. Warm soft pita bread, tahini sauce w/ lemon and parsley, a little tomato and definitely a turnip pickle. The less stuff is in there, the more likely the bread will hold up. Definitely not toasted.

The only time I had toasted panini-style sandwiches in lebanon was when they used those mini-baguettes. Cheese was the standard at the beach, but the better ones were garlic grilled chicken, or my absolute favorite, the garlicky grilled octopus sandwich we used to get from a closet-sized shop right near the port (in El-Mina). I still have dreams about that damned sandwich. Apparently the place is no longer there though. :sad:

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I just had my weekly share of Falafel, with soft Pita, thick Tahini, hot Zchug some fresh parsley and little pickled cabbage and cuke.

Most of the pitas that hold the Falafel & stuff are always fresh and soft. (Some places use extra thick and ultra soft pitas, under the generic name Yemenite pitas.)

Never had a toasted pfalafel pita in Israel. Some caterers use "Mini" pitas (about3-3.5 CM in diameter) in which one Falafel patty is places with a drop of some sauce).

You can also get those mini pitas in some bakeries, such as Abulafya in Jaffa.

Boaziko

"Eat every meal as if it's your first and last on earth" (Conrad Rosenblatt 1935)

http://foodha.blogli.co.il/

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I am a falafel freak! soft , very soft pita is a must, however good pita doesn't seem to be available in Japan so I have turned to making falafel salads. I crumble up the falafel in large chunks and place it on a bed of lettuce with cucmbers, tomatoes, jalapenos and a thinnish yogurt-tahini dressing.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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Hmmm. I like my falafel as a platter, not a sandwich. I find it hard to get my mouth around it otherwise. That, and for whatever reason, I've tend to get it with nasty pita bread. Dry, crumbly, falls apart, gets all soggy... Ick.

I like falafel with a yogurt/tahini/garlic/parsley sauce. I don't know the name of it. I like to dip the falafel into it, let it soak it up, then nibble contentedly. I love the turnips, and if I can find it, yummy chewey flatbread.

Man, now I'm craving falafel. I'm so susceptible to the power of suggestion!

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I just had my weekly share of Falafel, with soft Pita, thick Tahini, hot Zchug some fresh parsley and little pickled cabbage and cuke.

Most of the pitas that hold the Falafel & stuff are always fresh and soft. (Some places use extra thick and ultra soft pitas, under the generic name Yemenite pitas.)

Never had a toasted pfalafel pita in Israel. Some caterers use "Mini" pitas (about3-3.5 CM in diameter) in which one Falafel patty is places with a drop of some sauce).

You can also get those mini pitas in some bakeries, such as Abulafya in Jaffa.

Boaziko

So Boaz, are you gonna tell us where you got these fine Falafel? Was it at the queens of falafel? Hope you're well.

Rich

South Florida

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So Boaz, are you gonna tell us where you got these fine Falafel?  Was it at the queens of falafel?  Hope you're well. 

Rich

Hi Rich and all,

As a matter of fact we were not in the mood for "nouvelle" falafel, so we skipped the Queens. I made a take out at our local place, falafel "Atzir" in Hadar-Yossef (a suburb, north-east of Tel Aviv), where I enjoy Falafel for over 36 years, since my first boy scouts meeting. The price at that time was 20 Agorot (=5 cents) today it costs 12 Shekels (2.5-3 $).

"Eat every meal as if it's your first and last on earth" (Conrad Rosenblatt 1935)

http://foodha.blogli.co.il/

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The best falafel I ever had was during our hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in '97. There was a cart across from the Mosque and the sandwiches were made to order. The pita was warm, soft & fluffy & the tahini sauce was tangy from lemon juice and had a mild garlicy flavor with beautiful green specks of parsley. The falafel patties were crisp on the outside and very moist inside. There was always a long line but we stopped by that cart every day.

Haven't had falafel since.

Edited by spaghetttti (log)

Yetty CintaS

I am spaghetttti

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the garlicky grilled octopus sandwich we used to get from a closet-sized shop right near the port (in El-Mina). I still have dreams about that damned sandwich. Apparently the place is no longer there though. 

I think I know what you are talking about. The Octopus sandwiches are amazing, you can get very good ones in El-Mina as well as out of this world spicy fish sandwiches (samke harra) at a place called -if I am not mistaken- Abu Fadi.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Hmmm.  I like my falafel as a platter, not a sandwich.  I find it hard to get my mouth around it otherwise.  That, and for whatever reason, I've tend to get it with nasty pita bread.  Dry, crumbly, falls apart, gets all soggy...  Ick.

I like falafel with  a yogurt/tahini/garlic/parsley sauce.  I don't know the name of it.  I like to dip the falafel into it, let it soak  it up, then nibble contentedly.  I love the turnips, and if I can find it, yummy chewey flatbread. 

Man, now I'm craving falafel.  I'm so susceptible to the power of suggestion!

I am sure the bad Pita bread is the culprit. Once you try a good Falafel wrap with nice soft bread, you will never go back to platters.

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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Best falafel I ever had was at Abdul's Afandy on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis. Alas, they are no longer.

Next best is a tie between the Holyland Lebanese Bakery and Delicatessen on Central Avenue in Minneapolis, and Jerusalem's on Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis.

The Holyland is more consistent, and has a bin full of them as part of the buffet. Most places around here serve them as part of combination plates, or as a substitute for the Shawirma in a Shawirma pita sandwich.

Always there is ice berg lettuce, tomato bits, onions, and your choice of Tahini or Tzasiki sauce. I prefer the Tahini. Too much sometimes and the bottom falls out of the Pita! The Holyland bakes their own Pita and it is always fresh, never toasted.

doc

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The best falafel I've had was from street carts in Aleppo: the huge, pretty thin Syrian-style pita isn't opened up, just used as a base. The best guys mash the falafel a tiny bit as they're laying it in the pita, breaking it open a little, then they put on tons of fresh herbs: mint, scallions... It's topped with garlicky yogurt, not tahini, and all wrapped up tidily. Washed down with a hand-pumped espresso from the adjacent street cart, it was the perfect breakfast.

Once again, one of those things I wish I'd eaten more of, even though I was stuffed at the time.... I won't even say how much (little) these things cost, because it just makes me want to cry.

Zora O’Neill aka "Zora"

Roving Gastronome

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I think I know what you are talking about. The Octopus sandwiches are amazing, you can get very good ones in El-Mina as well as out of this world spicy fish sandwiches (samke harra) at a place called -if I am not mistaken- Abu Fadi.

Elie

We are planning a trip to Lebanon this June, (my husband's first time, and my first time in over a decade) so I plan on hitting you up for directions. I used to go there with my school friends but most of them are out of the country now and I am sure the city has changed beyond recognition...

It seems like as soon as we decided to go, I started developing uncontrollable cravings for sfiha, hallab sweets and shawarma. I will probably be as round as a beach ball come July.

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  • 4 weeks later...

I remember having very good falafel sandwiches in Safed in 1993 - some family style place on the main drag. There were these silky slices of preserved lemon that were amazing. I have tried slicing Moroocoan style salted lemons to get the same effect at home, but no luck. Any idea abnout those lemons?

Otherwise, as a dispalced New Yorker in Europe I still dream about Mamoun's on Bleeker street....

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No problem to make Moroccan salt-cured lemons: scrub the lemons well and thenslice. Sprinkle the slices with salt (be generous), let stand for 24 hours in a colander sothey can drain. Transfer to a sterile jar,sprinkling paprika between each layer, pour over olive oil to cover, seal the jar and let stand for 3 weeks. These are the ones used most commonly at Israeli, Egyptian and Lebanese felafel joints.

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No problem to make Moroccan salt-cured lemons:  scrub the lemons well and thenslice. Sprinkle the slices with salt (be generous), let stand for 24 hours in a colander sothey can drain. Transfer to a sterile jar,sprinkling paprika between each layer, pour over olive oil to cover, seal the jar and let stand for 3 weeks. These are the ones used most commonly at Israeli, Egyptian and Lebanese felafel joints.

Daniel, all recipes I've seen for Morrocan preserved lemons and the ones I use do not include oil. Where did you get this recipe from? Is it maybe a middle-eastern version not an African one?

Elie

E. Nassar
Houston, TX

My Blog
contact: enassar(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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