Falafel for Christmas? Why not?

December 24, 2010 (CHICAGO)

"In most of the Middle East areas probably, I mean they have the falafels -- it's eaten for breakfast, it's eaten for lunch, it's eaten dinner," said Joseph Abraham, owner of Semiramis.

At Semiramis, in Albany Park, it's made throughout the day. Fresh chickpeas and parsley are ground-up with jalapenos, garlic and onions, plus some green peppers. Once Abraham has ground all of those ingredients together, he combines them well then adds some more seasoning to it.

"We do salt and then we put the cumin, allspice, and a little touch, right before we put it in, a little baking soda. That's how it makes it fluffy," said Abraham.

The falafel is formed around a special tool then dropped into hot oil for about five minutes. When they emerge, they can be used for two different types of sandwiches -- both of which are done Lebanese-style -- rolled into larger-than-normal pitas.

"I do two kinds, the first one we call it the regular falafel. It comes with lettuce, tomato, cucumber pickles, fresh mint and a tahini sauce. And the second one is the falafel special. We put a little spread of hummus in there. And it comes with red cabbage salad tossed in olive oil, lemon juice. We put of course the tomatoes and pickles in there and roasted eggplant. And we put two sauces actually, tahini sauce and harisa sauce. It's a little hot spicy sauce," Abraham said. "The key really to having good falafel is it has to be like fresh to order. So it really has to come hot."

So even though it's the end of December and a lot of people have turkey or ham on their holiday tables, don't rule out falafel. It is, after all, one of the Middle East's oldest snacks.

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