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?

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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.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Magic Falafel by ANON.

It’s rare to find yourself in Camden Lock market on a weekday unless you work there, are a tourist, or a teenager looking for something illicit. I was just hungry after walking from town. It was sweltering and jammed full, with people lining the sides of the canal, the water bright green with summer algae.  Camden is a place renown for fast, varied, portable international food – much of it vegetarian. It even boasts a Mildred’s. The street food stalls snake around three or four alleyways in the market, with vendors cooking in small box kitchens and vying for passing trade.  They’ve taken to laying out samples on their counters to make their offerings stand out and appeal. But in the heat, it all just looked congealed and fly-blown. Despite its veggie credentials, there was very little fresh food on offer in the market. Lots of basic meat in bread/wrap combinations – tacos, burgers, various Asian specialities wrapped in a takeaway layer of various rice papers or chapatti – but nothing with any crunch.  It’s noticeable in the new laudable hipster love affair with plant-based diets that many of the insta/facebook sites and markets do tend to be of the deep-fried, processed faux meat, highly sugar-laced confectionary type. There’s a lot of cake and baked goods that you’d never look at twice normally, being scoffed in the name of new found vegan life.  It might be a symptom of the difficulty in carting fresh and chopped salad and vegetables in confined street food vendor vans and stalls. It might be nutritional ignorance – or everyone’s having a lot of cheat diet days. Whatever the reason, it’s great to turn Vegan to save the planet, but you have to save yourself too, and only a balanced diet of varied plants will do that.

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Which is why falafel is such a perfect meal. A falafel wrap just cannot be a falafel wrap unless it contains mountains of crisp salad and pickle.  A truly wonderful falafel – street food or not – always come with that right combination of masses of varied, fresh and crunchy salad, hotly spiced falafel, perfect creamy tahini sauce, sweet/sharp chilli sauce and soft pita. So it took a few forlorn wanders around the market (and even a look into Mildred’s) finally to come across a side alley with the glorious sight of a mountain of fresh carrots, purple cabbage, pickles, tomatoes and grilled aubergines calling to me like a siren to a sailor in the deep fried fog. It’s called Magic Falafel – and not only are they jolly nice people – their falafel roll is a masterpiece of stuffing pita with extraordinary amounts of crunch, bite and creaminess, for six pounds. They do boxed falafel too for those who eschew bread. But the pita comes in a nice tough bag, easy to take away and eat by the canal with a view of the algae and Amy impressionists, and strong enough to take what’s left (it’s huge) home.

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Magic Falafel. Camden Lock Markets.

Bread – 3/5

Falafel- 4/5

Salad – 4/5

Extras 4/5

Intoxication – 0/5

Many Thanks to our special guest reviewer ANONYMOUS this week!

 

Guest Blog – Ich Bin Ein Berliner

19718742_1109141535852999_1860807209_o.jpgIt was my last night in Berlin and falafel was needed to celebrate the end of….Let’s say a trying week. Trying to work on a budget I had booked myself an airbnb for my 7 nights holiday. I lasted only 4. This airbnb housed a child who threw epic tantrums at 6am that DROVE ME MAD. I was tired. Grumpy. Tearful. I was Over It-  and this was by day 3. After being woken up again by the sound of harmonicas being played (really?) screaming, vacuuming and more screaming, I had had enough. I scoured booking.com for the cheapest deal (I wasn’t going to put my trust into airbnb a second time). Here I landed in, according to wikipedia, the most famous avenue in Berlin: Kufurstendamm. I was surrounded by wealth. My hotel greeted me with a chandelier and had its very own haagen-daz restuarant (no use to a vegan, but I appreciated the luxury). The day before I had spotted FalafelMe from the other side of the road. It looked bright and friendly and its sign boldly stated it was vegetarian.

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It was decided then that for my last night I would go there! All day I had rehearsed how I would ask if it was vegan and for them to omit the cucumber (keine gurke!!!). As I walked for what felt like forever (15 minutes) past all the designer shops my self esteem slightly diminishing with every display of wealth and beauty I finally spotted the bright welcoming signage! They had a number of sauces to choose from. I naturally went for the one named vegan and successfully conveyed my distaste for cucumber. The service was fast and before I knew it I had a bulging falafel pita sandwich. The falafel was crisp and rich and the salad was colourful and crisp. There was even a chilli on top and some bright purple thing that tasted of nothing but made it look great. Unfortunately there were no seats and I was forced to walk past the high end shops, the likes of Chanel, Gucci and bvlgari with bits of lettuce falling down my top and sauce getting in my hair. I managed to find a nice small park to devour the falafel. And it was goooood! )

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Falafel – 4/5 (to be honest I’m pretty new to the falafel game so my references are few)

Brot- 4/5

Salat- 4/5

Level of intoxication- 0/5

Many Thanks to Lil J, our social media organiser and today’s Guest reviewer!