Like most parents in Bengali households, our parents too had their inhibitions about street foods (the phuchkas, the aloo kablis, the chatpatis, etc.) being unhygienic and hence unhealthy. During our childhood, while we were prohibited to have street foods for most part of the year, Durga Puja was one time when we were allowed to have our loved street foods from the vendors who put up stalls near the Puja Pandals. I, for one, loved to have the spicy, soury, tangy Aloo Kabli (Potato-Chickpea salad) most of the time. Over time as I moved away from home, I learned to make Aloo Kabli as it's a very simple dish which doesn't require much culinary skills yet it's a delicious and healthy snack to have.
While Aloo Kabli is a common dish which is equally savoured as a street food as well as a household snack in most Bengali households, chickpeas and chickpea flour (besan) are common in almost every Bengali, rather the Indian kitchen. Kabli Cholar Ghugni (Chickpea Curry) is a favourite Bengali dish which can be had plain or with flat breads (Roti, Paratha, Luchi). Chickpea flour (besan) is often used in various fritters and other snacks all over India.
I love Chickpeas.. I can even eat heaps of just simple soaked, softened crunchy chickpeas..
My love for chickpeas and my love for experimenting with foods often makes me try and prepare new dishes or lookout for new dishes which can be easily prepared with the ingredients in my kitchen.
Falafel is one such dish.
Falafel is made from chickpeas or fava beans or a combination of both. However, chickpeas are mostly used in most of the Middle Eastern countries (Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and Palestine) for making falafel. Only Egyptian variety of falafel uses fava beans. Though Falafel is not very common in India, it is prepared with ingredients that are mostly available in Indian kitchens. Despite its controversial origin, Falafel is thought to be influenced by Indian dishes and has most likely originated in Egypt. The earliest written account of falafel only appears in Egyptian literature after the British occupation in 1882. It is speculated that the British officers having acquired the taste for fried vegetable croquettes in India may have asked their Egyptian cooks to prepare something similar with the local ingredients and thus, falafel was born.
In recent years, falafel is often claimed to be the national dish by countries like Egypt, Palestine, and Israel, though debates about about where it came from still persists.
While competitions about various favourite food ownerships will always be there in different regions of the world, viz., the food debate about the origin of the iconic 'Rosogolla' between Bengal and Odisha, or the sugary strife between England and Scotland about 'Fudge' and 'Tablet', or the strife between Europe and America about 'Pancakes' and 'Crepes', or between Middle East and North Africa about 'Falafel' or 'Ta'amiya' - what's stopping us from enjoying the delicious, healthy, fibrous Falafel (Chickpea Fritters) for Breakfast, or a lunch side dish, or an evening snack?
** Falafel Recipe **
I haven't followed any particular recipe from any country for this one but you'll find I've used the common ingredients and the procedure that are mostly used in making falafel.
Ingredients (for two approximately):-
1 cup (200 ml) Chickpeas/Kabli Chola
1 cup fresh chopped coriander leaves
2 large garlic cloves
1 small onion
Ginger (about 1-inch piece)
Green chilli (as per requirement).. (I had taken 2 pieces)
1 tbsp chickpea flour (besan)
3/4 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp of baking powder
Salt as per taste
Oil for frying
Soak the Chickpeas overnight (minimum 8 hours).
Once soaked enough, drain the water and transfer the chickpeas along with all the ingredients (mentioned above) except chickpea flour and of course oil in a food processor and make it into a course paste.
Transfer the paste to a bowl and refrigerate to about 1-2 hours.
After 2 hours, take the paste out and mix the chickpea flour thoroughly and prepare small balls out of the paste. Ensure that they do not break off or stick to hand. If they stick to your hand, add some more chickpea flour to get the desired consistency.
Heat oil in a wok and fry the balls (in low flame) evenly until they turn brown.
Drain the oil and take the fried balls out and are ready to be served.
Serve the falafel with ingredients of your choice (sauce/hummus/plain/with wraps/inside sandwich breads...)
What other ingredients or what other ways have you prepared your falafel? How have you eaten it? Plain or with other servings? Please share...