My first experience with falafel was as a kid when my dad used to make the kind that comes in the box. You add water and leave it for 30 minutes and then form them and fry. As a kid I did not really appreciate this cultural exposure and endured them, I didn't hate them, but there was no love. It wasn't until I was in college and eating at a friends house that I realized they were actually pretty good. I tried making them from scratch a few years later and my attempt went ok, but not really good enough to bother trying again until years later.
Years later being last year, which I got to spend in Israel. Falafel is a really common street food, the stalls and stands are are everywhere and each one is a little different. It was also the first, and only, word I was able to read in Hebrew.
I love how the word looks, probably in part because I know it means tasty food is near by but also because I actually read it. It was on that trip in Israel that I learned how falafel is really supposed to be eaten. It's so much more than just the fritters. Falafel is starts with a soft fresh pita, opened at the top and a large glob of hummus slathered in the bottom. Then a few freshly fried falafel added and topped with several delicious salads on the top and finally a drizzle of techina sauce to finish things off.
When I returned to the states at availability of falafel was seriously limited, and not only that, they cost was way more than the 15 - 20 shekels I was used to paying for them. So naturally I learned to make them myself. Really how to make them this time. And the biggest thing I learned was that you HAVE to use dried and soaked garbanzo beans, not canned. After making them several times I have come up with the recipe we like the best.
I also picked up a tip at my favorite place, a stall in the shuk. I saw the proprietor use a little form to make his fritters. And since I really hate forming things I got my own on Amazon, I love it, I use it for all kinds of things. But my favorite is still falafel.
1 1/4 c. dried garbanzo beans
1/4 c. fresh cilantro
1/4 c. fresh parsley
3 Tbsp. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 small onion
1 Tbsp. cumin
2 tsp. coriander
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/8 tsp. white pepper
4 cloves garlic
1 - 2 tsp salt (to taste)
Oil to fry
Cover the beans with at least an inch of water and leave to soak overnight. They will more more than double in size. Drain.
In a food processor add the soaked beans and everything else but the oil using only 1 tsp of the salt to start with. Run the food processor until everything is well combined and the mixture sticks together. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before cooking.
Form in to balls and fry one in hot oil until browned on the outside, taste and check for salt. Adjust as needed. If the oil is too hot they will brown too much before the center is cooked, though that is usually not a problem when the fritters are flat and not round.
If using the falafel form make sure and press the mixture in to the form so that it compacts it. If not they tend to fall apart in the oil.
Serve in a pita with lots of salads or hummus or techina sauce to dip in to.
Cabbage salad, Israeli salad, pickled carrots, pickles, chips (fries, and not out of the oven when I took the pictures, hummus, techina sauce, and homemade pita.