Friday, January 25, 2008

Falafel in Paris & at Home

Has anyone gone to L’As du Falafel lately? Was it still good for you? As with many people, this place became my all-time favorite for a great falafel in Paris. I tried others in the Marais, but it was L’As who stole my heart.

We were surprised to find the place newly renovated on our recent visit. Out with the “hole in the wall” decor; in with the new: more seating, tables & freshly painted walls. Normally, this could be a good thing, right?

Except, that day, I had a bad falafel experience. It was the first time this happened in 2 years of going there. It's like, unheard of. And, I was REALLY disappointed. Eric's platter arrived 5+ minutes earlier than mine (which is a long time to wait when you've already been anticipating it all morning). When my pita finally arrived, the falafel was cold! I was too shocked to send it back. I tried the next one, but it was cold, too. All of them were disappointingly "off".

We overheard the table next to us ask each other, "Are your falafel lukewarm also?" The answer was "yes"..... So, I’m wondering if anyone else noticed the difference, or did we just have a bad night?

However, the silver lining in all this sad falafel news is that it motivated me to finally try to make them at home. And so I did, and they tasted really GREAT! I mean, I was so happy to find a recipe that tasted authentic and that reminded me of the ones I used to enjoy. I will not take you for granted again, “mes p’tits falafels”!

Here's the recipe, thanks to

After cooking a bunch of falafel by now, I can pass along some of my conclusions & experience:
  • I let my chick peas soak 2 nights since I thought I’d have time to do them the next day, but then didn’t. Keep in the fridge though (better hygiene) & change the water often. It was just fine this way.

Before & after soaking.... how nicely they plumped up! 1 cup dry = ~2 cups soaked!
  • Don’t worry about not cooking the chick peas after they soak. This is the 1st time I used “raw” beans after they were soaked & I wasn’t sure it’d really work….but it did! No problem.
  • Be careful not to over process the chickpeas in your food processor. Stop when you can see grains and do the "ball in your hand" test to see if you've added enough flour. They'll still be moist; no problem.
20-25g per ball; Makes 25 - 30 balls this size. Freezes well, too.
  • Don’t overdo the amount of onion since the inside is not cooked per se. If you have too many onions, it makes for some really bad onion-breath, not to mention an overpowering taste overall. Unless that's your thing...
  • Cooking the balls is a little trickier than expected & I think proper cooking is actually the key to a great result. In my opinion, cooking at a lower temp (160ºC/ 320ºF) is better than at a higher temp (190ºC / 375ºF), as recommended in the recipe. In my first attempts, I cooked them at 190ºC for 2 minutes, however, the outside was way overcooked & the inside was undercooked (tasted too raw). Then I tried it at 160ºC for ~ 3 minutes & it worked really well.
Undercooked inside

Overcooked...Warning: do not attempt to use a fork when at this stage!

Just about right...nice, golden color; not too crispy, not too soft

  • Breading them (“panure à l’anglaise”) is not at all necessary. I tried it to see. Curiosity, y'know? In fact, I’d say it ruins the taste/texture a bit. I much prefer them “au naturel”...which, conveniently, is also easier to make!
  • If, like me, your closest grocery store doesn't stock baking powder (apparently an American product?), you can make your own. Here’s what I did:
Cream of Tartar - 2 tablespoons
Bicarbonate of soda* - 1 tablespoon
Cornstarch** - 1 tablespoon

* aka levure chimique en francais, aka, baking soda in english
** aka Maizena en francais

Happy falafel-ing!


Maia and Don said...

Hi Diane,
My name is Maia and I am an avid follower of your blog. I need you advice, I will be in Paris for the second time and will renting an apartment for a week. I actually would like to cook and I need your advise regarding on what to cook pretty much especially with limited kitchen utensils on our flat. I would like to use french butter on the savory dishes and fresh produce.

Thank you,

girlcookinparis said...

Hi Maia and Don, thanks for visiting my blog! For cooking in a small apt. in Paris, I suggest to go to a nearby outdoor market and find the freshest vegetables available. Then simply roast them in the oven at 200°C with some olive oil & seasoning, and just before serving them, add a pat of that french butter, with fleur de sel....and you have a winner. Good with pasta, rice, or fish - all of which can be cooked on the stove top. Hope this helps! diane