The Ultimate Israeli Fast Food


Everyone who comes to Israel samples that Middle Eastern snack-food, fast-food, street meal known as falafel.

Everyone who comes to Israel samples that Middle Eastern snack-food, fast-food, street meal known as falafel. Although there has been considerable, often vehement argument about its origins (Egypt? Iraq?), my position is that there’s enough controversy in the region, so let’s not argue about that, too, but rather enjoy it wholeheartedly.
Falafel consists of deep-fried ground chickpeas, stuffed into a pita/half pita/­or lafa (flat rolled-up pita) cut and opened wide to make room for the additions, usually generously offered in a salad bar arrangement at falafel stands. The customer helps himself to tahini, sauerkraut, “Israeli salad,” sliced turnips, hot peppers, French fries, cole slaw and schug hot sauce, for starters.
Yes, you can make your own falafel from scratch: soak and grind chick peas, add spices, parsley, coriander … and deep fry it. But it’s truly a lot of work. So I would suggest that those yearning for that unmistakable taste use the available mixes and add their own touches from the recipes below.
Or, when all else fails, find the nearest falafel joint.
Schug Hot Sauce
2 jalapeno peppers
1 and 1⁄4 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 and 1⁄4 cups fresh cilantro
3 cloves garlic
1 and 1⁄2 tsps. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
2 Tbsps. olive oil
juice of half a lemon
Combine all ingredients in a food pro­cessor bowl. Process until fine. Store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator.
Makes about 1 cup.
Hot and Sour Eggplant
2 medium eggplants
2 Tbsps. olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 cup soy sauce
1⁄4 cup vinegar
1⁄2 cup vegetable stock (or water)
2 tsps. hot sauce (or to taste)
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 large red bell pepper, cut into julienne strips
chopped cilantro and/or green onions for garnish (optional)
Slice eggplants into 1⁄4- to 1⁄2-inch circles.
Heat oil in a large skillet on high heat. Add eggplant slices. Stir fry for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with garlic. Cover skillet and lower heat to medium.
Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the eggplant is light brown. In the meantime, combine soy sauce, vinegar, stock, hot sauce and cornstarch in a bowl. 
Add red bell pepper strips to skillet. Continue to cook for 5 to 8 minutes or until eggplant is tender.
Stir in soy sauce mixture. Cook for a few minutes until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.
Garnish with cilantro and/or green onions.
Topping for 6 to 8 falafels.
Spicy Moroccan Carrot Salad
4-5 carrots, scraped
1 clove garlic, minced
1⁄2 tsp. hot paprika
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 tsps. olive oil
1⁄2 tsp. salt
1⁄2 tsp. ground cumin
chopped parsley or coriander
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
Slice carrots into 1⁄3-inch circles. Cook in boiling water for about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain well.
Mix remaining ingredients and pour over carrots. Mix well. Store in refrigerator.
Topping for 6 to 8 falafels.
Oven Baked French Fries
Save on oil calories by baking your “chips” for falafel or any time.
3 large russet potatoes 
1 tsp. sugar
2 egg whites
1 Tbsp. mild paprika
salt and pepper
oil cooking spray
Peel potatoes. Slice into julienne strips with food processor. Place in a large container and cover with ice water. Add a pinch of sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Drain potatoes. Steam in boiling water to cover for about 5 minutes. Remove from water and pat dry well.
Preheat oven to 400˚.
Whisk together egg whites and seasonings. Coat potatoes well with this mixture.
Spread a single layer of the potatoes onto a baking sheet sprayed with oil cooking spray. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, turning often, until crispy and golden-brown.
Serves 4.
Rivka Tal is a former Minne­sotan who has lived in Jerusalem for the past 46 years. She is a food writer and translator. Email her at:


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