Know thy Falafel
Falafel came to be, thousands of years ago, by the Coptic people of Egypt as a meat substitute to eat during lent. It was made back then as it is today in Egypt with fava beans, the prominent bean of the area. No doubt it was a very useful invention, in the sense that it was extremely delicious, highly nutritious, and affordable, and so it quickly became the staple food of the area and spread to the entire Middle East and Africa.
As different countries incorporated falafel into their cuisine, they started making it with the plants and spices that were common to their area. In Egypt, for example, falafel is still made with fava beans exclusively, mixed with tons of fresh greens. In the the Levant, falafel is usually made with a mix of garbanzo & fava beans, with garbanzos being the prominent bean and no fresh greens. The typical recipe consists of mashing up beans with fresh greens, herbs & spices, and shaping them into little balls (sort of like a vegetarian meatball). The balls are then fried in piping hot oil and served in a sandwich with toppings, or alone with a sauce such as tahini.
The Test of Time
As with all great things, falafel stood the test of time and now has spread globally. Not only is it a staple of the Middle East and Egypt, but it is now common to find it in most cities around the world, with each different city incorporating its own twist on the recipe and condiments: quinoa and kale falafel in the US, to falafel with mayo and fries in Amsterdam. Of course, I knew falafel reached a tipping point when I found it on the menu at a Subway in Chicago.
The falafel at Falasophy attempts to be grounded in tradition, while at the same time incorporating some of the local ingredients and flavors of Southern California. We use a traditional recipe with a mix of garbanzo and fava beans with tons of fresh greens and spices such as cumin and coriander. We offer it with traditional pickled turnips, tahini sauce and hummus that are made exactly the same way our grandmothers made them from scratch and using only a few simple ingredients. However, being a product of Southern California, we couldn't help but also mix in the local cuisine for some amazing and unique flavors. With that came creations such as our Falafel Tacos, The Banh Mi-inspired Falafel Pita, and a quinoa falafel salad bowl. At first we surely thought our grandmothers would disapprove, but we knew we were on the right track when our parents munched down skeptically on a falafel taco only to order another two.