From Falafel to Hummus: Middle Eastern Street Food Delights

AAlex September 1, 2023 2:02 PM

Street food is one of the best ways to experience the essence of any culture, and Middle Eastern cuisine is no exception. Spending a day eating your way through the bustling marketplaces and food carts can give you an authentic taste of the Middle Eastern food culture. Two of the most popular street foods in the Middle East are falafel and hummus, both of which are staples in the region's cuisine.

What is Falafel?

Falafel is a deep-fried ball or patty made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. It's traditionally served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread known as laffa. The falafel balls are topped with salads, pickled vegetables, hot sauce, and drizzled with tahini-based sauces. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a mezze (assortment of appetizers).

How to Make Falafel

Here is a simple, authentic recipe to make falafel at home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4-6 tablespoons flour
  • Soybean or vegetable oil for frying

Instructions:

  1. Place dried chickpeas in a bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak overnight, then drain. Or, you can use canned chickpeas, rinsed.
  2. Place drained, uncooked chickpeas, and onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.
  3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
  4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.
  5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about six balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

What is Hummus?

Hummus is a creamy, thick spread made primarily from mashed chickpeas and a few simple ingredients like tahini, lemon juice, and some salt. It's incredibly popular throughout the Middle East and North Africa, and it's also been widely adopted in North America and Europe.

How to Make Hummus

Here's an easy recipe for making your own hummus.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup canned chickpeas
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (1 large lemon)
  • 1/4 cup well-stirred tahini
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons water
  • Dash of ground paprika, for serving

Instructions:

  1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine tahini and lemon juice and process for 1 minute, scrape sides and bottom of bowl then process for 30 seconds more.
  2. Add additional ingredients like olive oil, minced garlic, cumin, and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt to the whipped tahini and lemon juice. Process for 30 seconds, scrape sides and bottom of bowl, then process another 30 seconds or until well blended.
  3. Open, drain, and rinse the chickpeas. Add half of the chickpeas to the food processor and process for 1 minute. Scrape sides and bottom of the bowl, then add remaining chickpeas and process until thick and quite smooth.
  4. If hummus is too thick or chunky, slowly add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water until reaching the perfect consistency.
  5. To serve, transfer the hummus to a bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil on top, and sprinkle with a dash of paprika.

From falafel to hummus, Middle Eastern street food offers a diverse array of flavors and ingredients. Whether you're exploring a bustling marketplace or trying your hand at homemade recipes, these dishes offer a delicious glimpse into Middle Eastern cuisine.

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