For me, it started with the 1995 film “Party Girl.”
Parker Posey’s funky character, Mary, regularly visited the same food cart to request a falafel with hot sauce, a side order of baba ghanoush and a seltzer.
I was fascinated, having never had a falafel.
So, what was this dish that seemed so cosmopolitan? Why did street food sound sophisticated?
More than 30 years later — ouch — I realize why Mary was so enamored.
A falafel is a crisp, flavorful delight that resembles a hush puppy. Indeed, it has similar qualities, including a crunchy exterior and soft interior.
The taste, however, is far more exotic.
The falafel seems to be finally gaining fame in Delaware. Credit the number of restaurants specializing in Middle Eastern cuisine.
What is a falafel?
The main ingredient is chickpeas or fava beans — one reason falafels are having their moment.
Vegans, vegetarians and people on a plant-based diet are growing in number and looking for options.
The recipe might include herbs, aromatics and spices. Picture parsley, cilantro, dill, cumin, coriander, cayenne, onions, garlic and shallots.
After mixing it all together, the cook divides the dough into balls or patties and deep fries them to a golden brown.
You can pop a falafel into your mouth, dip it in a sauce, wrap it in a pita or place it on a mezze platter.
Accompaniments include tahini, tzatziki, cucumbers and tomatoes.
That’s a sticky wicket. Many countries claim bragging right to this famous food, and Egypt, Israel and Palestine territories have all claimed it as a signature dish.
Like baklava and hummus, the falafel spread throughout the Middle East as conquering nations brought dishes back to their homeland and tweaked them.
The Ottoman Empire played a large part in the fusion of regional cuisine.
Today, falafels are common in multiple countries, including Egypt and Iraq.
Where to find falafel
You don’t need to look far, and here are a few options.
Track down the Mojo Loco food truck for the “famous falafel” ($10.95). Note that It is not your average version. Instead, the Middle East meets Mexico, thanks to chipotle-ranch, cabbage slaw, pico de gallo and queso fresco.
Semin Trolley Square and Pike Creek sells a falafel wrap ($10.95) with tahini sauce.
In Newark, Ali Baba’s, which features the cuisine of North Africa and the Middle East, uses a mix of chickpeas and fava beans. The falafel comes with lettuce, tomato, pickled turnip and tahini sauce with pita bread on the side ($6). You can also order two as part of a vegetarian platter ($16) with two stuffed grape leaves, baba ghanoush, tabouleh and hummus.
Also in Newark, Home Grown Café offers a falafel sandwich ($12) on grilled pita with alfalfa sprouts, lettuce, tahini and a salsa made with tomatoes, cucumber, onion and parsley. Or, top the salad of your choice with a falafel for an extra $5.
Just off the Route 273 exit of I-95, customers of Gyro Kabob House in Newark can order a falafel sandwich ($3.99) and a skewered falafel platter ($11.99). Don’t miss the kabobs!
At the beach, Rosenfeld’s Delicatessen has a falafel platter appetizer ($9) with hummus and bagel chips.
The new Kabab Falafel Addiction on Coastal Highway between Lewes and Rehoboth specializes in falafels made on site. Buy a 10-piece appetizer ($7.99) or get six pieces on a salad $12.99). The sandwich ($8.99) includes three toppings of your choice.
There are two Middle Eastern restaurants in downtown Rehoboth. The family-run Semra’s, which spotlights food from Turkey and the Mediterranean, has a five-piece appetizer ($12.99), a sandwich ($10.99) and an entrée ($19.99).
The restaurant is so close to the beach that you can walk off the calories on the boardwalk.
Falafel patties are available as an appetizer ($14.95) at Aroma Mediterranean Cuisine, which serves them with tahini, a small salad and pita.
You’ll find variations between all these offerings, which makes trying them so much fun.
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