…keeps the hepatologist away. Well, not exactly. Read on.
I am generally not a fan of falafel. Don’t get me wrong, I have never disliked it, I just don’t see the attraction of eating something generally a bit (or a lot) dry and so obviously lacking meat.
Then I went to Israel, and I had falafel in the holy city of Jerusalem that was more amazing than I could ever have imagined it to be.
So, what is falafel?
Falafel is a traditional Arab dish of deep fried patty made from chickpeas, fava beans or both, and a mixture of spices. It is usually served in a pitta bread or wrap, or alone as part of a meze, and with tahini and harissa hot sauce.
Generally thought to have originated in Egypt as an alternative to meat during lent, falafel is a an archetypal Middle Eastern street dish.
Some countries in the Middle East serve the “McFalafel” in their McDonalds.
Falafel is now eaten all over the world and is popular with vegetarians and the health conscious for its high protein content (urm, ignoring the fact they are deep fried I guess – see very interesting study I talk about later).
I found a gem of a falafel shop – no idea what it is called, or even if it has a name – next to the hostel in which I was staying on Saint Mark’s Road in the Old City of Jerusalem, a short walk from Jaffa Gate. Selling very good value falafel and coffee, I couldn’t resist a stop.
This was the moment I was converted to the falafel. Eating with the sound of Saint Mark’s church bells ringing in the background, it was like I was having some kind of epiphany.
I ate here every day that I spent in Jerusalem. See bottom of page for directions if you want to go to this nameless tiny café! (You should, just don’t all go at once.)
While researching for this post I came across a study in Toxicological & Environmental Chemistry from 2010: “Effect of a popular Middle Eastern food (Falafel) on rat liver.” I shall not bore you with the details, but the conclusion was that, yes, consumption of falafel as the sole source of nutrition for a long period of time can harm your liver. But, in conjunction with other food items or beverages containing high antioxidant levels it can be considered as safe.
Jeez – I am so glad that they did that study, and I bet you are glad that I have passed this nugget along to you.
Did you know…?
The current record for the heaviest ever falafel ball is 74.75 kg (yes, that is the weight of the average human) and was set on 28 July 2012 in Amman, Jordan.
How to find
Here is a link with directions to the Citadel Youth Hostel, just a few paces away from the nameless café.