The second time I swung by Beni’s Falafel, Beni sat across from me to chit-chat and I asked for the secret to his falafels. He smiled and offered me coffee instead. It was a long shot, of course.
Have you been to Beni’s Falafel in Makati? I dream and fantasize about this sandwich.
It’s a pretty straightforward deal with falafels, shredded cabbage, and diced tomatoes between a soft and toasty pita pocket which I like to smother with garlic sauce and hot sauce. But those falafels. Those falafels are so darn tasty. They’re brought to you piping hot and they’re crunchy outside and soft and moist inside and they have that spiced legume-y taste but how do legumes taste this good HOW?
Rewind to another post I saw on Facebook, this time about the breading mix that supposedly best mimics Shakey’s chicken and Mojo’s. Love the stuff. I skimmed through it and read that Ferna breading took the cake (the bird?) and I filed the info away for future use.
Cut to the other day. I’ve been kind of obsessing about falafels since I’ve been to Beni’s and I decided to get it out of my system by making it. And with Ferna breading lurking in my mind, I decided to bread my falafels because good god wouldn’t falafels + Mojos be awesome?
As luck would have it, my grocery store either doesn’t carry Ferna breading or was all out. So. Annoying. But I don’t think obsessing about falafels is good for me so I forged on and settled for another brand.
I put together my falafels using:
2 400g cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained (If using dry chickpeas, they must be soaked overnight and may even require some cooking. I once made a curry with un-soaked dry chickpeas and excitedly invited a friend over to sample some. We almost dislocated our jaws.)
1 small red onion
2 cloves garlic
About 2 T finely chopped cilantro
About 3 T finely chopped parsley
1 1/2 t ground cumin
About 1/4 t cayenne pepper
About 1/4 t salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Breading mix as needed (I used about half a 50g pack)
About 3 cups oil for frying
1. If you own a food processor, you could pretty much blitz everything in there and go straight to breading and frying. I don’t own one so I first took my drained chickpeas into a large bowl and mashed it all up using my trusty pastry cutter.
I love my pastry cutter so, so much.
2. I grated in the onion and garlic cloves.
3. I then added cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, freshly ground black pepper, cilantro, and parsley. The resulting mixture looked a little too dry to me.
The thing is, I kind of spied on how they do it over at Beni’s between bites of my sandwich and the few glimpses I got of their mixture looked a whole lot more moist than this. So I decided to loosen this up with some water, about a quarter cup, to look like this:
I know. It doesn’t look like the added water made a world of difference but ooohhh, just you wait.
4. In the interest of uniformity but really because I don’t get to use it very often, I busted out my mini ice cream scooper. I put the oil in a pan on medium-high and emptied half a pack of breading mix on to a plate. I ended up using this brand, by the way. Mama Sita’s makes my favorite hot sauce (labuyo sauce FTW!). I also like their oyster sauce.
5. I slightly flattened the mini-scoops of chickpea mixture to turn them into patties, rolled them around the breading mix then patted off the excess. And then into the oil they went!
They smelled so lovely as they cooked but it wasn’t long until I noticed that something was amiss. They weren’t firming up like i imagined they would. In fact, they were turning really soft and flat and they even seemed to spread when I turned them over. ALARM BELLS. QUIET PANIC.
I shouldn’t have added water. I frantically reached for my flour tub and ended up adding about a quarter cup of the stuff to soak up the moisture and that mixture seemed to work better.
For your viewing pleasure, a visual comparison:
Too wet and barely held together by the crisped breading mix. I guess it kind of looks like a macaron. In an extremely-insulting-to-macarons kind of way. I tried one and the inside was mush.
Looking much firmer and sturdier with flour added in the mix. Thank Allah.
6. Shredded cabbage, check. Chopped tomatoes, check. Garlic sauce, check (1/2 cup plain yogurt + a clove garlic grated in + some finely chopped parsley + tiny pinch of salt). Assembly time!
This is the only decent shot I have of the finished product because the floodgates of my months-long obsession finally broke and I was starving so I scarfed it all down really fast but not so fast that I made no mental notes.
Although the Mama Sita’s breading mix tastes great and gives this a nice crisp, I think I’ll stick to frying chicken with it. The falafels were well-seasoned and it just didn’t seem necessary. Texturally, my falafels were a letdown – I didn’t quite achieve that crumbly, crunchy exterior and they were too soft and mushy inside. Perhaps a drier mixture next time?
I was so excited to announce I fala-fell in love but this is more like fala-fail. 😦 Planning my next trip to Beni’s.
Fun Food Fact: When chickpeas are ground into a powder, it’s called gram.