Friday, August 25, 2006

Lunch Time

Standing outside of my local falafel stall today was a rag & bones wagon with its skin & bones horse waiting patiently in the sun. His owner was busy filling his face while his nag seemed to get thinner in front of my eyes. Mind you, the collecter wasn't much better. He is a local addict (one of many - there are 3 methadone clinics within walking distance of my teeny tiny mouse house), who lives two buildings down from me. We are on friendly terms.

This is the way it has to be with "narcomanim" as they are called here. The idea being, if you are nice to them, they won't break into your apartment and steal enough for their next fix. To that end, I keep my scooter chained twice through a metal sliding door in the closed-in back entryway to my building. This hasn't stopped someone from stealing my battery and trying to steal the replacement (mind you they left a very expensive bolt cutter in return!). At any rate, this particular narcoman always stops whatever he is doing to say hi and chat. When he first saw me chaining my scooter and put two and two together, he promised to keep an eye on it to make sure nobody stole it in the future. Tfu tfu tfu (envision me knocking on my head as I say that) 3 years have gone by and I still have my faithful steed.

Hunger had me - as my neighbour wiped his chin with his inadequate napkin and wished me good appetite, I walked through the door and stared hungrily at the various salads, sauces, condiments and veggies laid out for me to do with as I will.

What you see below (from bottom left green stuff clockwise): green chili sauce, harissa (Yemenite red chili sauce - very very hot), hummus, chopped cucumber and tomato, red cabbage salad, spicy pickles, cabbage and carrot salad, tomatoes in tehina, fresh tomato and green chili salsa, turkish tomatoe and red pepper sauce.

I ordered my falafel and the guy plopped half a dozen generous sized balls into the pan of oil precariously balanced on the gas stove behind the salad counter. He took out a pita from his cooler chest (where they stay warmish and moist), gave it a curved slash at the leading edge with his japanese box cutter and looked at me enquiringly.

My usual fillers are: hummus, onions with sumach, harissa (always just a little more than they first smear on - I look like I can't handle the heat) and green coleslaw (or the carrot and cabbage salad). I don't like leaving half my falafel at the bottom of the bag because the pita was stuffed too full.

These are more nibbly bits that are good in or on the falafel: pickled cabbage, cauliflower, peppers (hot and sweet) and carrots; bitter syrian olives; green coleslaw (vinegared not mayo); onions with sumach (which for me is a must have - if a falafel stand doesn't have this I move on to the next joint); fried pita bits with zatar; grilled red peppers. The etiquette for genuine falalel stands is that you munch on the various things that are hand ready - therefore the pita bits, olives and pickles. The olive pits get thrown into the street, avoiding passersby, or not, depending on the personality of the eater.

Once the falafel balls are cooked the guy flips them into the waiting pita, giving each one a good squish once it sticks to the hummus. This technique ensures that there is room for more salady bits. After three balls he adds a bit more of the salad of your choice, fills 'er up with the remaining balls, carefully half wraps the almost ready sandwich, adds a few slices of battered, fried potatoes (he if fancy - most places just throw on some chips) and hands it over for me to finish.

I squirt some Ambar over the mess (this is a bright yellow turmeric curry spicy hot sauce that I have only ever seen used on falafels) add a touch of tehina, and then start adding pickles, a slice of fried eggplant (one is enough - they have been deep fried and are sooooo greasy, but oooooh soooooo gooooood!) and two or three deep fried hot peppers.

This is the finished product - a squashed falafel just peering over the edge of the pita, a hot pepper waiting for me to see if it is hot, Hot or HOT .

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