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Old 02-07-2007, 03:09 PM   #1
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Why was my falafel awful?

Hi, first post! (I hope this is the right forum!)

So, the other night I tried to make one of my most favorite dishes ever. The falafel. I got some precanned chick peas, onions, garlic, and the assorted other seasonings required and suggested by tons of online sites and cook books.

As far as I know, the preparation stage went according to instruction, save for the onions maybe being a bit chunkier than expected.

Well, I tried frying them two different ways. One was in a fry daddy, set to the recommended temperature, and the other in a skillet. In both instruments the falafel broke up and practically melted as it cooked. The ones that did survive did not have the texture, nor the flavor, of the falafel at my favorite mediterranean dig.

From this short explanation, could any of you clue me into where I went wrong?

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Old 02-07-2007, 03:25 PM   #2
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Can you post a complete recipe, or if you winged it, describe it as much in detail as possible, including the ingredients (+ how much of each)??

Falafel can be tricky, one of those recipes I struggled to perfect, but I am pretty much getting there. Then I hope I will be able to help you!
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Old 02-07-2007, 03:26 PM   #3
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We would really need to know exactly how you made it. What ingredients did you use in what quantities and how you assembled them.

CAn you tell us more?
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Old 02-07-2007, 03:32 PM   #4
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Hi, Django ( like Django Reinhardt, yeah?)!
First thing about making falafel. You can't use canned chickpeas, as they are cooked. You have to soak dried chickpeas overnight (8 hours) then blend them to a rough paste.Raw chickpeas, in other words. I'd also suggest blending the garlic and onion ( just a very little bit) with the chickpeas.
the spices wouldn't have made any difference. Oh, and no water, unless your chickpea mixture is very very dry. If so, add just a little!
Second point could be the temperature of the oil. I do not possess a thermometer, nor a deep fryer, so my test is do drop a tiny bit of the mixture in the oil before I start frying. If it bubbles and rises immediately to the surface, then it's ready . Remember that, as you add the falafel to the oil, the temperature will drop, so you must be vigilant. Don't poke the falafel about until you're certain they are semi-crisp on the outside; ie. if you start poking them before they're fried, they'll come apart.
Finally - keep trying. Yes, keep trying. I seem to remember I did exactly the same thing some 15 years ago, with the same results as you.
Don't be disheartened - cooking is experimenting until you get it right!
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Old 02-07-2007, 04:35 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cliveb
Hi, Django ( like Django Reinhardt, yeah?)!
First thing about making falafel. You can't use canned chickpeas, as they are cooked. You have to soak dried chickpeas overnight (8 hours) then blend them to a rough paste.Raw chickpeas, in other words. I'd also suggest blending the garlic and onion ( just a very little bit) with the chickpeas.
the spices wouldn't have made any difference. Oh, and no water, unless your chickpea mixture is very very dry. If so, add just a little!
Second point could be the temperature of the oil. I do not possess a thermometer, nor a deep fryer, so my test is do drop a tiny bit of the mixture in the oil before I start frying. If it bubbles and rises immediately to the surface, then it's ready . Remember that, as you add the falafel to the oil, the temperature will drop, so you must be vigilant. Don't poke the falafel about until you're certain they are semi-crisp on the outside; ie. if you start poking them before they're fried, they'll come apart.
Finally - keep trying. Yes, keep trying. I seem to remember I did exactly the same thing some 15 years ago, with the same results as you.
Don't be disheartened - cooking is experimenting until you get it right!
Do you have a recipe that you could share with me?

This is the recipe I used. I did not use any parsley, and I think I used a smaller amount of baking powder, as it was the last little bit that I had. Everything was chopped up extra fine, save the onion, which was a bit chunky. I've referenced a few websites since I made this thread, and I'm beginning to think that the lack of backing powder/bread is what caused it to have a funky taste and fall to pieces.
  • 1 15 oz. can chickpeas
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • oil for frying (canola or vegetable)
Thanks for the replies, everyone!
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Old 02-07-2007, 04:47 PM   #6
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Clive is right on, you cannot use cooked chickpeas (that's what the canned version is). Your recipe sounds fine the only thing you need to change is instead of the canned chickpeas use a cup and a half of raw chickpeas. Soak them over night in plenty of water.

In the morning drain out all the water and grind them into a thick paste. Add salt and all the remaining ingredients. I like to chop my onion and garlic super fine and not blend them because this way they release less water. Once the batter is seasoned fry them using the method Clive recommended and they should come out good.

Baking powder does not cause things to fall apart in oil but liquid does. I have learned this the hard way when I was learning to cook and made numerous messes along the way. If you omit baking powder the end product will be a flat fitter. It will not fall apart but will not look nice and puffy.
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Old 02-07-2007, 05:36 PM   #7
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Hmmm. I don't know where to find raw chickpeas. I'll have to check the Co Op next time I'm in the capital.

I don't have a food processor, but I do have a blender and a chopper. The chopper can't really cut things too finely. Would a blender be a decent substitute?
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Old 02-07-2007, 05:38 PM   #8
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Django, a blender should work just fine as long as you've softened them up overnight in water as recommended above.
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Old 02-07-2007, 05:55 PM   #9
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If you don't have a store nearby then the internet can be your friend. You can go to Ethnic Grocer and order the chickpeas.

Do a search on Kabuli Chana and order them, they are the same things. A pack is 3.99. There is also a Falafel mix that they sell. It's pretty much grind beans. You just mix it with water and add some seasonings and you are ready to fry.

I have enclosed the links for you if you are interested in ordering online.

EthnicGrocer.com – Premier online provider of authentic ethnic foods and products - Falafel Mix

EthnicGrocer.com – Premier online provider of authentic ethnic foods and products - Kabuli Chana
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Old 02-07-2007, 06:43 PM   #10
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Wow.

Seems like a great website. Thanks for the link.
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Old 02-07-2007, 06:52 PM   #11
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Yakuta and Clive is certainly right to make ideal falafels. However, I also tried a short cut, "cheater version" of mock falafel a few times when I suddenly decided I wanted them for dinner in the late afternoon, they came out with a decent result.
I add an egg for a binder, and breadcrumbs to soak up the moisture, adding it gradually by testing the consistency. (Soft but it should hold its shape.) Put them in the fridge for a couple of hours and let them chill until when the oil is hot and you are ready to cook them.

But save this method for emergencies, nothing beats real falafel made correctly
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Old 02-07-2007, 06:57 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by urmaniac13
Yakuta and Clive is certainly right to make ideal falafels. However, I also tried a short cut, "cheater version" of mock falafel a few times when I suddenly decided I wanted them for dinner in the late afternoon, they came out with a decent result.
I add an egg for a binder, and breadcrumbs to soak up the moisture, adding it gradually by testing the consistency. (Soft but it should hold its shape.) Put them in the fridge for a couple of hours and let them chill until when the oil is hot and you are ready to cook them.

But save this method for emergencies, nothing beats real falafel made correctly
I'll be near my favorite mediterannean restaurant this weekend, so I'll be satisfied for a bit afterwards!!
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Old 02-09-2007, 12:04 AM   #13
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The reason your falafel didn't have the same taste and texture as your favorite digs is because you didn't use/follow their recipe ... and that includes what they put into it, how they mixed it, and how they fried it (including the type of oil they used).

Here is a recipe worth looking at ... including using the food processor for mixing the ingredients. You can use canned chickpeas/barbanzo beans ... but there is a subtle difference in flavor and texture.

Assuming you had your ingredients mixed properly, and the oil temp was correct before you started ... your falafel probably fell apart from technique. In deep frying, if you add too many to the pot at one time the oil temp will drop and instead of cooking the falafel they will begin to absorb the oil, and fall apart ... if you start poking at them and turning too soon the same thing can happen. Same goes with "pan frying" them ... you have to leave them alone for 3-4 minutes after you put them into the pan before you even think about turning them - they should only be turned once, like a delicate piece of fish.
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Old 02-09-2007, 10:22 AM   #14
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I don't agree with the chickpea thing, as I've been making falafel & chickpea burgers for years & always use the canned drained ones with absolutely no problem.

If they're falling apart when you cook them, I'd suspect the complete lack of a binding agent in your recipe is at fault more than whether the peas were canned ones or soaked dried ones. All the "from scratch" recipes I've ever used call for an egg to bind everything together. And when I "cheat" once in awhile & use a commercial falafel mix, that too calls for an egg (in addition to canned chickpeas). The recipe you're using has absolutely nothing in it to even remotely bind the mixture together. I'm not at all surprised they're falling apart, & don't think switching to soaked dried chickpeas or even fresh chickpeas is going to help that situation.

If I were you, I'd add one lightly beaten egg to your recipe & try it again to see if that helps. It should, as the rest of your recipe looks fine to me.
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Old 02-09-2007, 10:25 AM   #15
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I've never made falafel but I always assumed you used cooked beans.

If you grind soaked but not cooked chickpeas and then fry for the short amount of time to cook the falafel ball, do the ground chickpeas cook fully?

All I can imagine are very crunchy falafel balls ....

Now this may be my weekend project!
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Old 02-09-2007, 11:24 AM   #16
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Hi Jennyema yes the raw beans cook just fine. You fry them on medium heat. As indicated this is a method used widely in Indian cooking as well.

Breezy, falafel is a vegetarian dish, if you use an egg as a binder it would not classify as vegetarian in the true sense of the word.

The binder that makes more sense would be some type of flour to dry out the water if you like to use canned chickpeas. We normally add a few tbsp of chickpea flour to preserve the authentic taste and dry the batter enough so you can fry it without it falling apart. I still however think that raw is the route to go if you want an authentic result. Try it and see the difference.
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Old 02-09-2007, 11:27 AM   #17
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Yakuta

Tnx! I am now very intrigued .....
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Old 02-09-2007, 11:34 AM   #18
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Yakuta - the original poster didn't say she was a "vegetarian". I'm not a vegetarian either & yet I make falafel frequently.

And unless she were "vegan", eggs should be okay.

If she wanted specific instructions based on dietary restrictions & didn't say so - that ain't my fault - lol!!!!

However, if she's NOT a vegan/vegetarian, adding an egg will solve a lot of problems.
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Old 02-09-2007, 11:56 AM   #19
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Hi Jenny, yes the beans get tender from soaking and when you grind them the granuals are pretty fine so it cooks quickly in hot oil.

Breezy you are right that they did not specify they were vegetarian and in that case egg would be O.K. as a binder, I still did not think it was authentic so I was listing some other options. I still recommend trying the raw method. Try and see what you think - , it's some work but I think you would like the results.
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Old 02-09-2007, 05:35 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BreezyCooking
I don't agree with the chickpea thing, as I've been making falafel & chickpea burgers for years & always use the canned drained ones with absolutely no problem.

If they're falling apart when you cook them, I'd suspect the complete lack of a binding agent in your recipe is at fault more than whether the peas were canned ones or soaked dried ones. All the "from scratch" recipes I've ever used call for an egg to bind everything together. And when I "cheat" once in awhile & use a commercial falafel mix, that too calls for an egg (in addition to canned chickpeas). The recipe you're using has absolutely nothing in it to even remotely bind the mixture together. .
Sorry, Breezycooking - I have to disagree here.
First of all, you do not need eggs to "bind" the falafel. It's a perfect Vegan dish - no eggs, no animal fat, and yes, yes, it does work with raw, soaked chickpeas because I've done it loads of times.
I believe its the starch in the chickpeas that binds the falafel together. In Indian cooking, for example, you'll find hundreds and thousands of recipes for "fritters" or "Kebabs" or "Veggie Rissoles" - without eggs. There's a delicious appetizer I make called "Vada" - it's basically soaked split green peas with spices and herbs (JUST like the falafel), deep fried and served with a fresh chutney (falafel is often served with tomatoes and tahini here). No eggs in sight. Then there are Pakoras - bound together with a chickpea-flour paste.
There's another made with ground sweetcorn. Again, no eggs. Perfect fritter if your oil is hot enough and you don't poke the food about!
A popular snack in England is an Onion Bhaji - again, onions, and chickpea flour.
Give them a try sometime and you'll see that eggs are not always necessary!
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