Falafel is one of those dishes that can be so satisfying and delicious, but making perfect falafel sandwiches can make it life changing. The best falafel I’ve every had is in Paris at a place called L’as du Fallafel in the Marais district. There is a fabulous Jewish quarter in this area of Paris, and in it, you will find several falafel places, but none like L’as du Fallafel!
So what, you may ask, makes a great falafel? These delicious little balls of chickpea wonder need to be light, crispy and flavorful, then served with all the right condiments. If it’s done right, it’s a very messy meal. 🙂
I’ve been experimenting a lot over the years (since that time in Paris, in fact) to get close to what those miracles workers do in the Marais. This recipe is the best I’ve done yet. On my third visit to L’As du Fallafel, my husband and I dissected the sandwich to nail every ingredient. Assembly ingredients and instructions beyond the falafel balls is below. Note: you will definitely want to prepare the other ingredients before or during cooking. The eggplant you will have to do in advance so read below for instructions.
Serves: 8 sandwiches
2 cups dried chickpeas (do not use canned!)
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 serrano pepper, coarsely chopped
1 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
4-5 mint leaves, coarsely chopped
1 1/2 Tbsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
canola or vegetable oil for frying
NOTE: Do not use canned chickpeas or garbonzo beans. They have too much moisture and the balls or patties will come apart when put them into the hot oil.
Put the dried chickpeas in a large bowl, and add enough water to cover by at least 2 inches and refrigerate for 12 hours. Drain, and place in a food processor along with the onion, garlic, and serrano pepper. Run the food processor until the chickpeas are chopped well, then add all remaining ingredients except the oil and process until ingredients are well mixed and everything is finely chopped (minced). Heat oil (about 4″ of oil) in a large pot or pan to 350 degrees F. If you’re not ready to cook yet, you can store the dough in the fridge for several hours. You can also freeze the dough for future use.
Shape the falafel into small balls (about the size of a large walnut), packing the mixture gently in your hands so that it sticks together. Gently put in the oil and fry until well browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove and place on a paper-towel lined plate or baking sheet. You’ll need to cook the falafel in batches.
You’ll want to assemble the sandwiches as outlined below. Prepare the components either before or while the falafel balls are cooking:
Tahini sauce: Buy the canned or jarred tahini (Middle Eastern sesame paste) and put about 1/2 cup in a food processor (be sure to stir it well first). Add 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 1/2 cup water (add it gradually until you get the consistency you want), a couple Tbsp olive oil, 1 garlic clove and 1/2 tsp salt. Process well, and add water as needed. It should be the right consistency to drizzle some on the falafel, but not thin like water (think the consistency of ketchup).
Tomatoes, cucumber and onion: Chop ripe tomatoes, peeled cucumber and white or red onion into 1/2″ cubes and put in a bowl. You should have about 1/2 cup of the mixture per sandwich you plan to serve. Add enough tahini sauce to coat the vegetables.
Cabbage w/ vinaigrette: Very thinly slice green, red or a combination of cabbage until you have about 1/2 cup per sandwich you plan to serve. Drizzle a small amount of red wine vinegar over the cabbage, sprinkle with salt & pepper, and mix to coat. Drizzle with olive oil to lightly coat, and mix well.
Roasted eggplant: You’ll want to roast the eggplant before you begin any other preparations, including the falafel. Preheat the oven to 350F.I use Japanese eggplant for smaller slices. Slice the eggplant 1/2″ thick. Place on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the eggplant with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and roast for about 10 minutes, turning halfway through. Eggplant should be browned and cooked thoroughly.
When ready, serve the falafel by putting about 1/2 cup of the tomato, cucumber, onion mixture in the bottom of the pita. Top with some of the cabbage, then a few slices of the eggplant. Add 3 or 4 falafel balls, then top with tahini sauce. Top or serve with a garlic chile paste (like sambal olek) or sriracha sauce and enjoy!