While not everyone finds cooking to be the most exciting part of their day, just about everyone can agree that cooking food is an important part of daily life. Some people like to spice up their lives by learning how to cook new recipes from all around the world.
For people who really enjoy cooking, they may get ahead of themselves and work with a recipe before realizing what goes with the food they are making. This can be tough, especially when you are planning on serving the food you are making to your family. Whether you simply do not know much about the food you are making or you aren’t sure what would fit its taste and texture profile, it is important for you to learn about the food you are cooking. This includes learning what it is made from, where it came from, and how it is traditionally served.
Of course, learning these things can certainly be an enjoyable lesson into the history and culture of the food you are working with. However, it can actually help you determine what goes well with it. Take a falafel for an example. Not everyone knows what a falafel is, and that would make it immensely more difficult to serve as a full course when you aren’t sure what complements the flavor.
Now, when you know what falafels are and where they come from, you can begin thinking about other foods and dishes from the same area and at the same time. When you know the ingredients they are made from, you can begin to plan out what would go well with those ingredients. Finally, when you have a good grasp of how falafels are traditionally served, you will have a good direction to go in when you are wondering what to eat with falafel.
What Are Falafels and Where Did They Come From?
Today, falafels are a popular street food all throughout Israel and it has made a name for itself throughout the whole world. It is a traditional Mediterranean dish that used to be made with fava beans and/or chickpeas. The term “falafel” can either refer to the individual falafel balls or the entire dish containing the falafel. Typically, falafels are made with ground-up fava beans and/or chickpeas, seasoned with numerous flavorful ingredients to create a zesty and savory dish, and then shaped into balls.
From here, these balls are deep-fried in oil that is at a specific temperature. It has to be hot enough that the falafel balls become crispy on the outside, but the oil doesn’t make its way inside of the falafel. Once they are done frying, they are commonly served and garnished with cool vegetables.
The exact origins of the falafel aren’t clear and are actually of controversy to people from different regions. Some people believe that the dish was invented approximately 1,000 years ago in Egypt, while other people believe that the dish was developed when Pharaohs were around. People who believe falafels originated in Egypt believe that the recipe found its way to the Middle East because of Egypt’s port cities connecting to that area. Other people believe that it originated somewhere in the Arabian Peninsula, more specifically in Yemen. However, most people agree that the falafel has been around for a long time and it certainly isn’t going anywhere anytime soon considering its worldwide popularity.
What Are Falafels Made Out of?
You may not realize it at first, but falafels are a surprisingly open type of food. This means that they are generally open to people who have a variety of dietary requirements. They are considered a vegetarian-friendly alternative to most meat-based street foods, and depending on who is making the falafel, they can also be considered a vegan meal as well. It is gluten-free, egg-free, and dairy-free on top of this. Just about anyone can eat a falafel and be satisfied with this meal. There are meat-based variants of this recipe, but they are technically not considered a true falafel so they will not be considered.
Traditionally, falafels will use chickpeas or fava beans, while some recipes will use a combination of both. When using chickpeas, you should use dried chickpeas, as these will have the appropriate texture. Then a variety of herbs and spices are added. These can include parsley, cilantro, dill, cumin, cayenne pepper, and coriander. This is what turns the falafel from a ball of dough into a zesty dish. Onion, garlic, and salt/pepper are also included. Baking powder is also added to keep the falafel light and airy without the use of traditional flours.
Now that you have a good idea of the flavor profile of a falafel, you should also consider what is commonly served alongside a falafel. This can act as a guide as to how you should serve your own falafel.
How Are Falafels Traditionally Served?
Falafels are traditionally served with several different ingredients. They are often served in hollow pita, or with several different “cool” vegetables. These vegetables include tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, and similar. Falafels can also be served with dips too, with the most common one being hummus.
To add moisture to the falafel, some people will serve it with tahini (a sesame seed spread) or a spicy sauce to give it even more of a kick. People will also serve falafels in soft tacos and miniature burgers, but this begins to shift into a more modern presentation of the falafel, given its worldwide appeal.
There are plenty of additions to a dish that people will add to go alongside the falafel. These can include even more vegetables, such as shredded red cabbage, grilled eggplant, fries or tater tots (only sparingly), other pickled vegetables, and baba ghanoush. Baba ghanoush is a Levantine appetizer that uses tahini, eggplant, lemon juice, and olive oil.
In the end, falafels are served with either cold, tasty vegetables to offset the zesty, savory taste of the falafel, or they include other sharply flavored foods such as pickled vegetables. Some people will add wraps, pita, or burger buns to the equation as well, depending on where you are getting your falafels from.
How Can You Make Your Dish Unique?
Now that you know about how falafels are commonly served, you can begin thinking of ways to serve them that are relatively uncommon. These unique changes to falafels can make your dish all the more appealing and it can help it stand out among the crowd of falafel sellers around you.
For instance, considering that there are many cool, salad-fitting vegetables that are served alongside falafel, you can consider combining everything into a salad. Typically, you would want to cut or crumble your falafel to make it fit a salad dish.
You can also consider turning your falafel balls into falafel squares and calling it toast. This can make for a nutritious and unique breakfast that you may not be able to stop eating. You may have to make some minor adjustments to your recipe doing this, but it will be well worth it in the end, especially if you consider putting an egg on top of it all.
Some people will add beets to their falafels not only for the flavor, but for the sharp appearance change as well. This can further be combined into a salad. Before you know it, your falafel will be something that you can’t get anywhere else.