Posted in Daily, Food, Stories Around the World

Of Falafel, Vada and Beyond…

Soak the raw chickpeas (with or without baking soda) overnight. Ground them with parsley, scallions, garlic as batter and add spices coriander or cumin, if needed. Instead of chickpeas, dried fava beans can be used similarly. They are stone ground and mixed with leek, parsley, coriander, cumin and dry coriander. Shape the mixture into balls or patties. Serve deep fried or oven baked. Falafel from the original Levantine cuisine is ready. Have them alone, wrapped (within lafa) or stuffed (into a hollow pita) with tahini and garnishes of tomatoes, cucumber, lettuce or even pickles.

One of the basic things of life, that brings together different cultures, places, and origins to a common area of interest is “food”. As one explores the different resources and basic ingredients; varieties are made, experienced and experimented with subtle differences across the cultures and cuisines. With International Falafel Day being held tomorrow (June 12th), it would be quite interesting to learn of similar recipes and try a few in the home kitchens or experiment with local ingredients making subtle changes.

Soak the legumes in water. Ground them for the batter. Season the batter with cumin seeds, onions, curry leaves ( sauteed or plain), salt, chillies, black pepper with or without minced or sauteed vegetables for more taste or nutrition. Add ginger or baking soda for large batch fermentation or more fluffiness respectively. Shape the mixture and deep fry. The Indian “Vada” is ready. Alternatives to legumes (pigeon pea, chickpea, black or green gram) are sago or potatoes. Serve hot or crunchy with or without dip.

Served as savoury fried snacks or even for breakfast; “Vada” also known as wada, vade, vadai, wadeh or bara have been a staple of South Indian cuisine as early as 12th century. There are varied types of vadas described as fritters, cutlets, doughnuts or dumplings. Popular ones include the medu vada of South India, batata vada of West India or mixed as food preparations like dahi vada or vada pav.

Season cooked and mashed black eyed peas with salt and chopped onions. Mould the mix as a large scone and deep fry in palm oil. Serve split in half and stuff with spicy pastes of vatapa, caruru made of shrimps, ground cashew, palm oil, okra, coconut milk and more. For vegans, serve with paste of hot peppers and green tomatoes. Acarje of West African and Brazilian cuisine are ready. Boil the basic ingredients (instead of frying) and abara is ready.

Derived from the Yoruba language, Àkàrà is a generic word meaning “bread” or “pastry” or the dish itself. “Acarajé” (brazilian) is derived from either the Yoruba word combinations “àkàrà” (bread) and “onje” (food) or “àkará” (a round pastry) and “je” (to eat). Popular in West Africa and a part of their culture; akara (rice flour, mashed banana, baking powder, sugar) was often fried and prepared for major occasions like childbirth, weddings, parties or funerals. When sold on the street with addition of ingredients like fried beef, mutton, dried shrimp, coconut among others; acarje was created and struck mass popularity since then on. Various similar combinations like acaca (steamed corn mush) have also coexisted.

Thus for a break from the “known dishes”, it would be fun to attempt newer simple recipes for a little different, spicy and healthy combination to keep the palate as well as “the kitchen experimentation spirit” going. With varied and subtle variations of familiar ingredients, it would be interesting to create a new family or home masterpiece or tradition to carry over to the next generations.

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