Guest post: falafel in India!

Thanks very much to Laura for this review.
Chill Out Hostel Hampi Falafel Hanoi

Having tried and failed to review Australian falafel I have to say I was not optimistic of success in India. How wrong I was.Here in Hampi it seems there is not a menu without an Israeli section offering the delights of falafel.

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Where’s the sauce?!?

Well what you see is what I got exactly as the menu said: falafel, salad, chips, humus, pita. Crunchy, uncomplicated and in the eating uncompromising. The chips were a real highlight perhaps with a touch of turmeric for that authentic Indian touch. The humus was fine if non-descript but the pita was lovely and fluffy though somewhat redundant on a side plate. The falafel itself was tasty and crunchy, did I say crunchy, very crunchy. The biggest disappointment for me was the salad which was just cucumber and tomato. Afterwards I tentatively suggested the addition of onion and mentioned something about chilli.

Pluses: Good service, great music, unbeatable location. Marks out of 5 = 2.5.

PS will try to try some more Hampi falafel when I have fully recovered from my non falafel related food poisoning!

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Chick Re-visited : a Brexit Special

Chick Falafel, Brent Cross Shopping Centre: North London 

We have reviewed this particular eatery before, but we at ratemyfalafel.com are nothing if not thorough – we welcome new insights and perspectives. Thanks to this weeks guest contributor for this gem: Marie @planteatingposts (insta)

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Well, just because the entire country has taken leave of its senses doesn’t mean I’m going to miss lunch. And I’ve found a very fresh and highly recommendable falafel chain called Chick, in an unlikely place – the middle of Brent Cross shopping mall. I’d gone there to blank out the political insanity and to try to buy a coat in the sales. But oh Falafel community! These are difficult and uncertain times, particularly those of us who like our food international. This week – in and out of the UK parliament – businesses and commentators have raised the likelihood of dire Brexit-related food shortages. Meaty fast food chains like KFC, who experienced a chicken shortage only last year, and Macdonalds, have written to the Prime Minister, begging not to crash out of Europe. A third of UK food comes from elsewhere. Non meat eaters are not immune. Lettuce and other hothouse-grown salad ingredients  will apparently be at a premium. Responses to these warnings have ranged from stiff upper lips types on TV news vox pops, telling us that going without will ”do us good after so much plenty” – to one Unionist Northern Irish DUP politician being overheard by the Green MP sniggering “let them eat chips”. ( The irony that chips are potatoes and his island has a certain history with having food withheld, and shortages, evidently lost on him).

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So what about falafel? Against the tide, I’m optimistic. Today’s pitta ( choice of white or brown bread – or a box with no bread ) was full of carrot and red cabbage, raw onions, plus pickles. Now I’m pretty sure we grow all that here – so that’s fine. Mine had a tad too much tahini sauce but it was served with plentiful crunch and a smile. The falafel were hot, freshly fried and – delicious. The ingredients for those and the hummus – chick peas, are imported from India and Turkey. So I think we’re covered for non-EU
sources there,  if we keep our wits about us. We could start stockpiling too,  as dried chick peas and sesame (tahini) keep for ages.

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All in all, it’s a good little outfit and very welcome in the grimness of shopping in Brent Cross. As I caught the bus home, I allowed myself two crumbs of optimism in this lunatic week; firstly that healthy falafels are surviving as a relatively cheap and popular none-meat fast food concession, which might even steal some custom from KFC and Maccas, and secondly, such is the unique combination of ingredients in a falafel, that not even their hardest and most insane efforts, will stop the tories ruining my lunch.

Chick Falafel, Brent Cross Shopping Centre: North London
NW4 3FP Hendon, Barnet, United Kingdom.

https://www.facebook.com/chickfalafelbrentcross/

Price- £6.50 for a giant pitta falafel with salad and pickles – pricey but huge and easily feeds two people.
Customer Service – Nice people.

(Anti) Fascist falafel?

 

So. We moved to Italy. We were travelling around Italy for our honeymoon, seeing all sorts of beautiful things and it seemed like as good as any place to rest our heads. We were a bit tired of moving around all the time and having to re-pack the f**king car every 5 minutes. So, Nettuno it was. A lovely sea side town not too far from Rome. The apartment we rented (3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, sea view) was cheaper than what we were paying in Bristol for literally a shoe box, and my partner was able to find a job teaching English in a nearby town of Latina almost instantly. Everything was going swimmingly, and in fact I was swimming in the sea most days.

 

Then. Winter hit. It was suddenly too cold to swim in the sea. And I couldn’t help but notice all the fascist graffiti. It hadn’t been at all obvious with our rose-tinted glasses on when we first moved in, but more and more swastikas and ‘fasci’ symbols appeared as if from nowhere, not so much in Nettuno but in all the neighbouring towns. I took it as a personal mission to ‘correct’ as many as possible with my trusty spray paint and paint pens, that I took to keeping on me at all times. The bizarre thing was that some of it was written in English – ‘support your local fascist crew’ – when Italian fascism is based on ‘Italy for Italians’ – why reach out in English?

support your local fascist crew

The message has now been changed to ‘support your local anti-fascist crew’

Latina, where my partner worked, turned out to be a man-made town built upon drained swamp land, designed by none other than Mussolini himself. In fact, the inhabitants didn’t seem to have a bad word to say about the mass murderer. But we didn’t know this at first.

Hungry, we were in Latina having gone into the nearby mountains for a day with our good friend QUAID who was visiting. Where could we grab a bite to eat? Naturally most places were shut as we were once again not hungry in the designated dining periods, but we managed to find somewhere with lights on and piled into the café. We sat down and waited for the waiter to come to us. Looking around, suddenly I realised that there was a familiar bald looking man staring at us from a bottle of wine on a neighbouring table. It couldn’t be?  I nudged the others. Taking a furtive glance at the walls of this otherwise sparsely decorated café, I realised they were covered in pictures of il Duce himself. There were about 20 photos of Mussolini. Horrified, we scuttled out, taking refuge in a kebab place. Kebab places can’t be fascist, we reasoned. Anyway, I was sick of ‘pizza rossa’ and marinara by this stage and welcomed the idea of a hearty falafel wrap. How had we ended up living in an overwhelmingly fascist area? Apparently, the region where we live, Lazio, is well known to be full of fascists. It would be funny, 2 anti-fascist activists accidently living in the heart of nationalist Italy, if it wasn’t so bloody depressing.

 

Istanbul Pascia Kebap, Latina.

As previously mentioned, falafels in Italy thus far are pretty hit and miss. So, I wasn’t holding out for anything particularly special with this dining experience. I was just happy that the walls were covered in random pictures from all over the world rather than a stern-faced dictator. No Erdogan in sight either (it was a Turkish kebab place). Once again, the falafel had the option of coming with chips inside the wrap, which pleased me and were able to choose from a variety of sauces and salad.

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The falafel was fried and had a satisfying green colour when bitten into. It was well wrapped, and was massive. The chili sauce was actually fairly spicy, and the staff were very friendly. Another positive was that it was actually open for business, you were able to order and enjoy food at the disgusting time of 6.30pm. I know, madness. However, all in all, it did lack something. It was OK, but it didn’t have quite what I was looking for. Not a bad falafel, but nothing special. It was also quite expensive – 6 euros for falafel, chips and a drink.

 

[UPDATE] On a second visit, my husband was given a discount for wearing his Kurdish scarf, by another woman working there who was Kurdish herself. Win.

Review

Falafel – 4/5

Bread- 3/5

Salad – 3.5/5

Customer Service – 4.5/5

Intoxication 0/5

 

 

Write your own review!

Have you ever wished that you could submit your own falafel review to ratemyfalafel.com but struggled with the layout? Now we have this easy to use template to help you write quick and easy falafel reviews! You can copy and paste this template into Word or any other software of your choice. Send your review to ratemyfalafel@gmail.com.

Happy falafelling!

The Template

Snappy Title

Background/History/story – 200-300 words.

How were you feeling when eating this falafel? What is the story behind it? Feel free to bring in any world events into it. Falafel is the lens in which we interpret the world- how does this falafel relate to the world in a wider context? Or were you just very drunk?

The main review – 100-200 words.

This should include a detailed description of the falafel. How did it make you feel? Textures, flavours? Where was it taking place? What was the atmosphere in the shop like? Customer service? These are all things you can mull on.

Review – a simple scoring system out of 5.

Bread

Salad

Intoxication

Price

Customer Service

if hummus is provided extra points are awarded. Then randomly give it a number out of 5.

Please provide at least 3 photos of the falafel and ideally the location as well.

There you have it. A simple formula, with excellent results. We look forward to hearing your stories.

 

Thanks go to a Miss Quaid for suggesting this template idea.

 

End of the world Falafel

 

Well, that is perhaps a slightly dramatic title. End of Italy, certainly. We had decided to take a trip down to Sicily for Christmas, covering the whole of Southern Italy in just 10 hours. As soon as we crossed the tiny gap from Reggio Calabria to Messina, Sicily (costing us a distressing 75 euros) the weather seemed to jump about 10 degrees. It was like summer again. Maybe that should have been a warning of strange things to come but we happily ignored it and basked in the suns glory. Well, it was night time when we arrived, but we parked the car next to the beach and enjoyed the fact it wasn’t that cold.

 

We slept in the car that night, and woke up to see the beautiful clear waters of the sea- it’s basically paradise, FYI- before heading to Mount Etna first thing in the morning. Etna! What a revelation. I thought I’d seen everything. The scorched black earth, the mad craters. It’s like what I imagine being on the moon might be like. Except less terrifying. I mean, it never erupts, right? We marched up some of the craters, took a million photos and ‘selfies’, and tried to play in the snow. It was fantastic.

 

And then, to Catania.  Now, after a day climbing up mountains you can bet that I was hungry. What did I have a hankering for? You guessed it. Luckily, Sicily is much more multi-cultural than the rest of Italy and just a few steps away from our hotel (after a night in the car we thought we’d treat ourselves) we found exactly what we wanted. Mister Kebab, purveyor of ‘American fast food’, apparently, nestled on the hideously busy main shopping road in Catania. We ordered a falafel wrap each and a portion of chips to share. I had already had some pretty terrible falafels in Italy so far, which in turn made me remember all the appalling falafels in Spain. It really is traumatic. Sometimes it brings me down, you know?

 

Anyway, I wasn’t really expecting much so I was pleasantly surprised when I was actually asked what salad and sauces I wanted (Chili sauce and all the salad) and if I wanted CHIPS inside the wrap (yes!) I took a bite into the wrap and it was actually delicious! It had a curry style sauce which was really tasty and the falafel was freshly fried, the salad was crispy and it had a satisfying crunch to it. No hummus of course, but the sauce kept it from being too dry and I loved the chip addition. I love my fast food to be as fatty as possible and this really felt like it was getting there. This falafel wrap was absolutely huge and I was left feeling full for a very long time. Although, come to think of it, that didn’t stop me from eating an entire take away pizza later that night. It was Christmas, don’t judge.

Anyway, not only did Mount Etna erupt for the first time 10 years just hours after we left it, there were 6 earthquakes in Catania as well (but I was in a food coma so didn’t notice).

 

On to the review

 

Falafel – 4/5 – crispy, fresh but not green, I like it green.

Bread – 3/5 – standard bread.

Salad – 4/5 – no olives

Intoxication – 0/5 

Price – I can’t remember, not expensive. 

Minus points for lack of hummus.

Total 3.75/5 – very good.

Happy New Year from everyone @ratemyfalafel.com

If you want to see your falafel review here in 2019, please send your reviews to ratemyfalafel@gmail.com!

Template coming soon!

ratemyfalafel.com goes on honeymoon

That’s right! I done and got hitched. And it wouldn’t be a honeymoon without a falafel (or 4). We set off from the UK after a week of farewells that took us all over the country. We were off, on a road trip to Italy.

We decided to take a detour and pay a visit to a friend who lived in the Netherlands so after a rushed baguette in France we crossed into Belgium and then into the Netherlands. Leiden, where our friend lived, happened to be celebrating some sort of independence day or something so the whole town was full of drunk people and flashing fairground lights and shit, pumping music. It helped with the homesickness. We popped into a coffee shop for..a coffee..and then got out of the busy centre as quickly as possible. And went for a falafel. It only seemed right to start the holiday as we meant to go on, that is, ignoring local delicacies and going straight for the Turkish kebab shop. To be fair, we asked our friend what food Holland was known for, he said chips, so we got some of them as well.

As I recall, the falafel was typically shit. It took a long time to make, yet it fell apart almost instantly, a poorly wrapped excuse for a falafel. It was far too onion-y and the texture was too crumbly – none of the crisp freshness that we look for in a decent falafel. The salad was average (apart from the excess onion) and the bread was OK. I’d had a few lagers, which usually improves the taste, but this falafel did nothing but leave me cold. The chips were alright.

 

Not one to linger on my misfortunes, we carried on our trip, heading to Germany where we spent the night in Cologne – nice Cathedral, tasty Thai Meal and then followed the river Rhine down to the black forest, camping along the river for a few days.

 

The black forest was lovely- we did some nice hikes and saw some ruined castles, and then went to Baden-Baden for an afternoon. I had read somewhere that it was a nice place to go to. It was nice, but in that posh Bath or Exeter sort of way – we couldn’t afford to actually do anything or buy anything there. We searched for somewhere to eat and found ourselves drawn to ‘Istanbul Kebap’ – the only reasonably priced establishment in the spa town. Naturally we ordered the falafel wrap and chips and sat down to await our meal.

The falafel came in a burger bun. Covered in what I think was a disgusting yoghurt based sauce. It could not have looked any less like it did in the photo! I was furious. The salad wasn’t too bad, at least it came with a jalapeno. The falafel itself had at least been fried. That was the extent of the positives of this falafel. There was no hummus. No tahini. No olives. At some point a swarm of over excited school children came over. It was almost too much to bear. I left, depressed. I had thought that falafel in Germany was great- I’d had some lovely ones in Berlin after all. I started to think that it was sign. Maybe poor falafels would over shadow the whole honeymoon?

It was perhaps for this reason, that I didn’t eat another falafel for over a month.

A month. Yes. It could have been something to do with the fact that as soon as we crossed the majestic alps into Italy from Austria, that the food just got so much better. Let’s face it, Italian food is some of the best in the world. And with vegan options pretty much everywhere, I wasn’t stuck for choice. The memory of the falafel started to fade, as we visited mountains, lakes, beaches, ancient ruins, museums and cities.

One month later. Rome. I was hungry. I had time to kill. I remembered I had seen a sign advertising all sorts of foods – curry, chicken, falafel, a full English breakfast, and of course pizza (I think there might be a rule that all takeaways have to provide pizza). I was intrigued. I made my way to the restaurant, which was conveniently located right in front the of the main central station. I sat myself down and was handed a menu, but I knew what I wanted. I ordered a falafel wrap ‘meal’ (which turns out meant it came with a can of coke) for the princely sum of 5 euros. The price was high, and so were my hopes.

While I eagerly waited for my meal, I was persistently harassed by men trying to sell me phone chargers. Do I look like someone who particularly needs a power bank? Nonetheless, I keep my eyes steely and determined and patiently waited for the food. When it came, I was bitterly disappointed.

The thin wrap was so tightly wrapped it was difficult to even take a bite at all. Even though the waiter had confirmed 3 times that I wanted chili, in my professional opinion this falafel had never been anywhere near a chili. The ‘falafel’ may not have even included chickpeas, such was this unrecognisable mush that sat before me, weirdly not even made into separate chunks but just one long sausage. Italy is a country literally full to the brim with olives, but the salad was simply some limp lettuce and some sad tomatoes, not even any cucumber to add any crunch. Despite the poor quality, rest assured that I ate every single bite.

Just a few melancholy hours later however, our luck started to change. I met up with my husband in a different part of town, on our way to a gig at a squatted fort – it has a moat and drawbridge and everything! He was hungry, and after searching around for a takeaway that wasn’t pizza, we found ourselves in a chicken/falafel shop just 5 minutes away from the squat. Much more reasonably prices at 3 euros 50, the falafel came with chips and a drink. This looked a lot more promising. I could still taste the falafel from earlier, but I forced myself to sample the falafel when it came (a falafel reviewers work is never done). It actually tasted alright! It had chips squeezed into the wrap itself and there was a choice of various sauces, including chili. The falafel was fried fresh, it was green in the middle and it had a subtle flavour. The wrap and salad weren’t anything special, but it definitely passed the falafel test of being edible whilst sober, an apparently more and more difficult task.

Stay tuned for more Italian falafels, after the holidays.

 

Quick, Easy, Delicious cook-at-home Falafel. (disclaimer: not quick, not easy)  

*thanks to our guest falafel writer this week. The editor is currently travelling/honeymoon-ing and will be back shortly. (Don’t worry, falafel has featured heavily in these…travels and will be discussed at length during the next few posts).

Quick, Easy, Delicious cook-at-home Falafel. (disclaimer: not quick, not easy)

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I’ve eaten so many falafels in my life – made by so many establishments and nationalities of chef – Australian, Lebanese (hard to beat) British, Israeli, Turkish, Moroccan and Egyptian –  yet I  never knew it was such a controversial dish.

The origin of falafel has been hotly-contested, although it now seems to be generally agreed that it was originally made in Egypt with Fava beams, while the Israelis developed the chickpea version.

If you decide to embark on making your own homemade falafel, this hot contesting continues in cookbooks and on recipe websites and apps. There’s a range of views about the best ingredients and the best method.

I thought I might whip some up and save some money in the process.

First off, I needed to weigh up the need for speed and instant gratification, versus authenticity and texture.

Most aficionado middle eastern chef types are very clear that canned chickpeas are not even worth the discussion. Many feel the need to emphasise this point in CAPITAL LETTERS mid-recipe. Buy the beans, soak the beans overnight, do not cook the beans, do NOT use canned beans. It’s to do with moisture content, apparently.

Other recipe sites are cool with cans (and hence, speedy results.)

I decided to go hard-core and was pleasantly surprised how cheap dry chickpeas are for a kilo bag. You only need about a quarter of a bag to make a dozen.

The inclusion of baking powder and flour is also cause for debate and dispute, with those in either camp warning of dire consequences…

They all agree that some ingredients must be fresh – so you need to go shopping and make sure you get things that you probably don’t currently have –  like flat leaf parsley and fresh coriander.  Make sure that sesame seeds, sunflower oil (or other non-olive oil), ground cumin and other spices of choice are all in your house before you begin.

Another essential check before you start is some sort of food mixer/ blender. I have a cheap, complicated, multi-part  Ninja device,  which is neither a kitchen food processor nor a blender. It turned out fine, but you will find it very hard to make these falafel without owning something that can whiz up the uncooked soaked beans.

falafel jerusalem

I eventually chose the recipe of middle eastern Israeli sensation duo Yotam Ottolenghi and his Palestinian chef partner Sami Tamimi from their cookbook “Jerusalem”.

This actually recommended using a meat grinder – which (obviously) I neither own – nor know anyone who does. It also recommends baking powder and plain flour which other recipes avoid.

So, a full day after thinking about rustling up these quick friend snacks, I had finally got the soaked beans and all the fresh herbs assembled.

It was all pretty logical for the next step – chopping things up (garlic, onion, herbs) blitzing the beans and mixing it all together to produce a very pleasant bright green concoction.

raz falafel

The oil can go in a saucepan – 7cm in depth and hot enough to bubble up around the falafel mix. Creating the falafel with your hand and tablespoons is tricky as the mixture falls apart.  That’s why you often see little plug-like falafel shapers in falafel vans and restaurants. Indeed there’s a picture of a happy chef in the Jerusalem recipe book wielding one; another piece of equipment that would help at home but which no normal person possesses.

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It’s also near impossible to get sesame seeds on both sides.

But after a few minutes frying – and holding my nerve as they became quite dark – the first two falafel were on draining paper and ready for tasting.

                                           Verdict? Crunchy and authentic.

falafel kaz 1

They could use salt after cooking, but sauces or hummus deal with that. My non-vegetarian husband deemed them “aromatic and crispy”.

All that was now required was to make all the others, clean up lots of bowls, chopping boards, kitchen-whizzing bits and blades and oily spoons and pots, and then finally eat some myself.

falafel salad pitta
Final Analysis : delicious and cheap – but what a bloody faff! I really doubt I would do it again (although I may try the quick canned chickpea version and report back.) It is probably more fun if there are loads of you (to eat immediately and help clean up), and if you are a well-prepared type. Also, they do keep for a few days but are no longer crispy or as good.

Thank you to our guest reviewer this week! She wished to remain anonymous.