When you think of Middle Eastern food, falafel is one of the first dishes to come to mind. Made predominantly from chickpeas, these deep-fried balls are delicious and a firm favourite of vegetarians and meat-eaters alike at Anat. They can be enjoyed on their own or served in a wrap or pita with salads and sauces. We shed some light on the history of falafel.
The Origins of Falafel
While the exact origin of falafel is unknown, there are many theories. While the when and whom is contested, many of the theories of falafel origins agree that it was first developed in Egypt by the Egyptian Copts, who then brought it to the Middle East. Other theories say that falafel actually originated from India in the 6th century. A more accepted theory on the origin of falafel states that it was invented in the late 19th century, as this is when it first started to appear in Egyptian literature. This first version of falafel was made using fava beans instead of chickpeas.
Falafel in the Middle East
Falafel is commonly associated with Middle Eastern cuisine today, but how did it get here? Falafel was first adopted by the Jewish communities in Palestine, and then took some time to become a popular dish in Israel. It offered a number of benefits including its delicious taste, filling nature and the fact that the ingredients could be grown easily and cheaply. The balls were also not easily squashed, which made them great to transport, and could be eaten hot or cold. By the time Israel gained independence in 1948, falafel was still far from being accepted as a Jewish, and much less ‘national’ food.
Falafel’s popularity was boosted in 1949 with the introduction of rationing. Not only was it nutritious and a great source of protein, but the ingredients were also easily available to all families, even the poorest ones. With the arrival of the Jews from Turkey and North America, falafel’s popularity was boosted again. These Jews had experienced falafel in their native countries and brought it with them to Israel, cooking and eating it without seeing anything weird about it. After that, its popularity took off and it is now a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine.
Today, falafel can be enjoyed all over the world. For many customers, it is still seen as an exotic dish, but with the mixing of cultures, especially in the food industry, these associations are fast being overcome.
If you haven’t tried falafel, visit your nearest Anat for a taste experience you won’t forget. If you are already a fan, we invite you to enjoy this tasty dish with us on your next visit.