I have an insatiable and undeniable love with almost all forms of street food. I’m not talking about the fancy New York City food trucks either. No, I am talking about the food you see being sold from small storefronts or carts all throughout the world. Crepes in Paris, bagged fruit in Bangkok, you name it and I love it. So of course when I was visiting Israel a few weeks ago, I had to experiment with their curbside culinary offerings.
One of my favorite meals was in Tel Aviv when I decided to see if all of the fuss about falafels lived up to the hype. A falafel is a pretty simple creation – ground chickpeas with a variety of spices and other ingredients added to taste. This concoction is then formed into a ball and deep fried.
This of course conforms with travel rule #569, anything fried is good. (please note that I exempted fried grasshoppers from this rule while in Mexico)
I wasn’t exactly sure of the ordering etiquette, so I winged it as they asked me a variety of questions. I opted for the falafel pita, which sounded nice and compact, rather than the baguette or mysterious sounding Iraqi Pita. The falafel balls were fried to order and I was thrilled to see that the pita was topped with equally fresh French fries and hummus. I opted out, but lettuce and/or a Moroccan salad was also available to add to the incredibly messy meal. A veritable portable Middle Eastern buffet, the falafel pita is truly a culinary masterpiece.
I awkwardly took the assemblage of fried goodness and hummus, grabbed a Diet Coke in a glass bottle (love it) and sat down to enjoy some great people watching at the Carmel Market.
Other than cost and pure deliciosity (word? New Loperism?), I think I love street food most for its ability to create instant connections. First, you’re eating what most people enjoy on a daily bases and as you walk along with your selection it creates a common bond and helps, in small part, to eradicate that OTHER sign hanging around your neck. Street food is also engaging by its nature. You aren’t in s stuffy restaurant, removed from the rest of the world. You’re there at a café or park bench actively participating in the city, rather than watching it from the outside like a finely orchestrated zoo enclosure.
This may be a little too much travel philosophy for a post about falafel, but it’s my site and I loved my great falafel experiment.
12 thoughts on “The Great Israeli Falafel Experiment”
Looks yum, but I wonder if they have a veggie version? ;-)
Andi there are ! I like both the meat and veggie sort as well!c
Falafel is vegetarian! It’s the other types (schwarma and so forth) that are not! Paris has an amazing selection of Falafel in the Marais, you’d love it.
There’s that falafel again. You’re killin’ us with these pics, Matt. Isn’t it gratifying to have a great (low cost) meal AND some good people watching a the same time?
That’s the best kind!
Andi- it is veggie. Felafel is chick peas and spices. The topping is usually either tahina (sesame sauce) or hot sauce. It is often served with cucumber tomato salad. See- not just vegetarian -vegan.
Oh my goodness, I love falafel! And hummus! And fluffy pita bread! Combine all of them together – heavenly! I love eating them in Middle Eastern restaurants here, so I guess it’s not really ‘street food’ but I DO wish to visit the Middle Eastern countries one day and enjoy the pita bread as one of the locals :)
It truly was great. Only regret was not having it more often lol
I loved falafels in Israel. My favorite was a small stand in Afula. I have yet to find anything in the US that comes close to the amazing falafel experience.
Am currently trying to complete a post on hummus, couscous and lamb tajine. Just saw your post. All I can say is.. it’s a sign:P
Now I’m super hungry! Great post Matt :)
First the land, then the food. love reading your articles but It’s disappointing that as a traveler you did not educate yourself enough to find out that falafel is Palestinian and not Isreali.
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