Hey guys! Today I want to talk about the most popular Israeli street foods, Falafel and Shawarma. Falafel is a ball of fried chickpeas and or fava beans. They are typically wrapped in pita bread or a bigger pita called lafa. In addition to the delicious warm treat, the pita will also include hummus and many different sorts of salads and sauces.
This is a small falafel and shawarma restaurant in Tzefat. Home of my first falafel, this place is no bigger than a large closet. One cook stands in front of the grill, grilling veggies and cooking shawarma, and the other stands in front just like this picture, filling lafa with salads and hummus. They work as a machine, filling several pitas a minute. They need to work fast because the line is winding out the door and around the corner.
This is a typical spread of salads that you can choose to fill your pita with. The colors are just beautiful. My favorite is the Israeli salad- cucumbers, tomatoes, and thyme. Other fillers are cabbage, carrots, tabbouleh, and olives.
Here is my first falafel and actually my favorite of all the ones i’ve tried. I think this one is so delicious because the falafel is actually baked instead of fried and because it is only chickpea as opposed to chickpea and fava beans. As you can see, this is not just your typical wrap. It is huge! This is not a first date food for sure, unless you’re comfortable with getting yourself covered in mush.
This is a different falafel I tried. As you can see, the falafel itself is actually greener in color. This is from the fava beans mixed in with the fry. I think cabbage is always a great filler for the pita because it compliments the light spice of the falafel. I also like to ask for extra onion in my pita. They are always perfectly spiced and work very well with the slightly mushy consistency of the inside of the falafel.
This is shawarma. Don’t be alarmed by this massive hunk of meat. You can see this circular meaty goodness at most street markets. In order to make a shawarma pita, the cooks will actually shave the meat off with an electric knife. If you’re particular about what meat you’re eating, beware. If you order it, you can have any mixture of meats including lamb, goat, chicken, turkey or beef. But don’t worry, the fat from the meat keeps everything juicy and delicious so you’re best off just not asking questions. I actually don’t particularly love shwarma, but many of my friends here do. They love eating it wrapped in lafa, smothered in tahini, hummus and topped with vegetables.
So there’s the run-down of falafel and shawarma. If you’re looking for delicious goodies like these in the US, you should definitely check out Mamoun’s in NYC. I am relieved that when I go home, I will not have to go without my new favorite food.
Just a side-note. Don’t be deterred by how different this street food is from what we usually consider to be fast food. Falafel really is delicious. It’s one of those things that just needs to be tried. If you’re a picky eater, I encourage you to just go out and try falafel or maybe make your own so you can control exactly what goes into it. I was at first skeptical of trying falafel for several reasons: what’s in it? Is it clean? Will I get food poisoning? But now I am less sensitive to all these questions because I know that whatever it is, it will be YUM-O.
I have three more days in Israel. I am constantly keeping my eyes out for new foods to blog about. Can’t wait to share it all with you. Time to go get some lunch- falafel, obviously!
Whitney- I miss you!!!
Bon Eating from Tel Aviv,