In much of Israel, falafel stands are as common as hot dog stands in New York City, except that instead of a pushcart the vendors stand next to a vat of boiling oil. It’s one of my favorite street foods from all my travels. Luckily, they are extremely easy to make and tasty to eat.
I purchase premade falafel mix: just add water and voila! You’re ready to drop balls in the deep fryer. I like to scoop the powder mix from the bulk food bins at Wild Oats, but have purchased this boxed mix as well and can say it’s good: Casbah Falafel Mix.
It’s great to have an electric deep fryer for heating oil. Deep frying works best when the oil is at a specific temperature — hard to maintain when you’re heating it on the stovetop. If the oil is at the right heat, then the food will instantly develop a crust to keep the insides oil-free while they cook. Oil that is too cold will seep into the food and make it greasy. We generally use canola oil, sometimes mixed with peanut oil, to avoid the heavy dose of saturated fats associated with deep-fried food fried in lard. We just have a basic deep fryer like this one: Presto 05420 FryDaddy Electric Deep Fryer
I wanted to make this really kid-friendly, so I put all the fixin’s in little bowls and let them build their own pita sandwich. I used a melon-baller to make fun-sized balls.
Traditionally, falafel pita sandwiches are dressed with lettuce or cabbage and chopped tomatoes with a yogurt-dill-chopped cucumber mixture and tahini (sesame paste). Often a Tabasco-like hot sauce is sprinkled on top.
This night I chopped up broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers and carrots, because that is what I had. Instead of tahini, we used Annie’s Naturals Goddess Dressing, which has a sesame base and is unbelievably tasty. For a kick, the adults sprinkled on Golden Toad Chipotle Pepper Sauce, my absolute favorite hot sauce. Yum! The kids loved customizing their own pita — it’s always popular when they can help make the food! Everyone scarfed it down, even the 2-year old, and I sent leftovers in the lunch boxes the next day.