It’s hard to beat the appeal of warm herby falafels – but the fawaffle might just do it. ‘The what?’, did we hear you say? If you haven’t come across this rather fine combo, let us introduce you: Meet the falafel waffle, also known as a walafel. If you love that Middle Eastern staple, the falafel, and you love waffles, you’re going to love this combo, too.
It’s quick, it’s delicious, it’s a lighter take on the deep-fried version, and it’s versatile. You can stack ‘em like waffles, you can toss them in buddha bowl, you can make them big or small, or you can split them and stuff them like a pita.
It’s that last version that created a storm of interest in Israel last year, gaining momentum after Almog and Tali Shem Tov opened Falafel Belgi in Richon LeZion, and then another branch in Tel Aviv in February this year. The couple told Tablet it took them a year of experimenting with different mixes and waffle makers to create a version that could be split and stuffed without falling apart.
In Sydney, the falafel waffle is the star player in the most popular menu item at Buddha Bowl in Newtown. The wholefoods vegan/vegetarian café, which opened in June 2017 with a passion for sustainability, serves two warm falafel waffles in their Bedouin Bowl, alongside two vibrant scoops of hummus – one roasted carrot, one roasted beetroot; a lentil salad; a fresh massaged kale and spinach salad with nutritional yeast and sesame seeds; a vibrant green sauce made with tahini, lemon and herbs; and a brown and black rice combo as the base.
“I love falafel. It probably stems from my time living and working in the Middle East. Everyone makes them slightly different to each other and my falafel waffles are no exception to that!” says Buddha Bowl owner Adam Chalk.
“I didn’t want to use deep-fried items on the menu, which is how most falafel are done, and oven-baked was a bit impractical for quick service,” Chalk says. “So I thought of putting the falafel mix in a waffle maker … It’s fantastic, delicious, and keeps a nice moist inside. “
“It’s all about the flavour. We use a lot of fresh herbs, parsley and coriander, and chickpeas that we cook ourselves, so it’s got a freshness about it,” he says. “People go crazy for it … about a quarter of our bowls each week are that one.”
Melbourne, too, has an eatery where this combo is the star attraction, with Walafel in Ormond serving up a waffle-iron-cooked version based on a home-style falafel recipe.
You don’t have to eat out to enjoy a falafel waffle though. It’s super-easy to make at home.
“High fibre, high protein, crazy satisfying… Golden-brown, a little crispy, but soft and delicious inside,” says Desiree Nielsen of the fa-waffles she cooks up in The Urban Vegetarian, which she serves with a honey-tahini sauce and warm grapes.
“Those fa-waffles are the best!!” Nielsen tells SBS Food when we chatted with her about the recipe. “This was actually inspired by something one of my favourite bloggers, Sarah at My New Roots, had done a while back. We tweaked them to make them milder and a bit more family friendly [Nielsen has two young children] and struck a sweet-savoury balance with warm grapes. I love that sweet and savoury combination!”
Like most falafel, the falafel waffle shows best with some extras to round out flavours, and a good sauce can go a very long way.
A sure-fire winner for saucing would be this green tahini recipe from Michael Rantissi and Kristy Frawley, as featured in their book Falafel for Breakfast.
What we especially love about the falafel waffle is can be tweaked to suit your pantry, and your timeframe. Sarah Britton’s version at My New Roots uses dried chickpeas (so you need to start the recipe a day ahead of serving), and her tip is to cook them as soon as you’ve made the dough, for the lightest result; you can have Nielsen’s version, made with canned chickpeas, on the table in under half an hour; both are gluten-free if made using chickpea flour as the binder. And if you’re super-tight for time, you can also use a good dry falafel mix (we added a handful of fresh herbs, to punch up the flavour when we gave that a go for a spur-of-the-moment lunch).
You can play with the size (try throwing mini falafel waffles in a salad; they look super cute); and with the combination of herbs in the batter.
After all, something that’s got so many names – fa-waffle, walafel, waffled falafel – could never be constrained to just one recipe.
Join Desiree Nielsen in The Urban Vegetarian, with double episodes airing Mondays at 7.30pm on SBS Food (Channel 33).
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