The origin of falafel is unknown and controversial. A common theory is that the dish originated in Egypt & Palestine , possibly eaten by Copts as a replacement for meat during Lent. it was possible to export the dish and name to other areas in the Middle East. The dish later migrated northwards to the Levant, where chickpeas replaced the fava beans. It has been speculated that its history may go back to Pharaonic Egypt.
Falafel grew to become a common form of street food or fast food in the Middle East. The croquettes are regularly eaten as part of meze. During Ramadan, falafel balls are sometimes eaten as part of the iftar, the meal that breaks the daily fast after sunset. Falafel became so popular that McDonald’s for a time served a “McFalafel” in some countries. Falafel is still popular with the Copts, who cook large volumes during religious holidays. Debates over the origin of falafel have sometimes devolved into political discussions about the relationship between Arabs and Israelis. In modern times, falafel has been considered a national dish of Egypt, Palestine, and of Israel. Resentment exists amongst many Palestinians for what they see as the appropriation of their dish by Israelis. Additionally, the Lebanese Industrialists’ Association has raised assertions of copyright infringement against Israel concerning falafel.
Falafel plays an iconic role in Israeli cuisine and is widely considered to be the national dish of the country. While falafel is not a specifically Jewish dish, it was eaten by Mizrahi Jews in their countries of origin. Later, it was adopted by early Jewish immigrants to Palestine. Due to its being entirely plant based, it is considered pareve under Jewish dietary laws and gained acceptance with Jews because it could be eaten with meat or dairy meals.
In 2012, in an attempt to challenge Israeli claims regarding the origins of Falafel, and reassert the Arabic identity of the food, one of the hotels in the capital of Jordan, Amman, prepared the world’s largest Falafel disc weighing about 75 kg – breaking the previous record set at a Jewish food festival in the United States.
In North America, prior to the 1970s, falafel was found only in Middle Eastern neighborhoods and restaurants. Today, the dish is a common and popular street food in many cities throughout North America.
Falafel has become popular among vegetarians and vegans, as an alternative to meat-laden street foods, and is now sold in packaged mixes in health-food stores.While traditionally thought of as being used to make veggie burgers, its use has expanded as more and more people have adopted it as a source of protein. In the United States, falafel’s versatility has allowed for the reformulating of recipes for meatloaf, sloppy joes and spaghetti and meatballs into vegetarian dishes.
When made with chickpeas, falafel is high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Key nutrients are calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, vitamin C, thiamine, pantothenic acid, vitamin B, and folate. Phytochemicals include beta-carotene. Falafel is high in soluble fiber, which has been shown to be effective in lowering blood cholesterol.
Chickpeas are low in fat and contain no cholesterol, but a considerable amount of fat is absorbed during the frying process. Falafel can be baked to reduce the high fat content associated with frying.