There are endless good reasons to love falafel. For many in Melbourne, falafel is an essential connection to their heritage, whether that's the streets of Cairo, a stall in Jerusalem, or fondly remembered Jordanian feasts.
Falafel – pulses, herbs, spices – are essentially healthy and nourishing but the fact that they're balled and fried makes them feel like a treat too. You can serve them in countless delightful ways: on a platter or in a pita with vibrant pickles, dollops and relishes.
Tony Carne opened Kazbah Egyptian Street Food earlier this year, partly because his work in the travel industry wasn't looking too flash but really because he wanted a purposeful business to fight climate change.
"My aim is to get the conscientious carnivore to reduce their meat intake by choosing a plant-based option once or twice a week more often than they had previously," he says.
If there's a vegan craving food, it has to be falafel.
Tony lived in Egypt for five years and his falafel (or "taameya" as they're called there) are made Egyptian-style with fava beans.
"They're delicious and fulfilling," he says. "If there's a vegan craving food, it has to be falafel."
Ahmad Alalaea understands falafel cravings. After he moved from Jordan to Australia in 2017, he found himself hankering for Palestinian-style falafels made with chickpeas and a special 21-spice blend.
Unable to find them, he returned to Jordan for a six-month falafel investigation and returned to launch Wazzup food truck. He imports the secret flavour mix and blends it with soaked chickpeas and herbs to form crunchy, fluffy falafel.
How you cook falafel is crucial. The Left Handed Chef's Ehud Malka says each ball should be formed and fried with utter care.
"They must be scooped one by one and placed one by one into the fryer," he says. "There are machines but it's not going to happen here. Never. In Israel, you see the owner scooping them in one at a time. He's been there, standing by the deep fryer, for 40 years. This is what it is. This is falafel."
Kazbah Egyptian Street Food
174 Bellair Street, Kensington, mryum.com/kazbah
This bright orange food truck is all about Jordanian style falafels. The classic box includes 12 balls, plus hummus, pickles, tahini and red chilli. Owner Ahmad Alalaea is also rightly proud of his unique stuffed falafel, filled with red onion, sumac and chilli.
The Left Handed Chef
Ehud Malka recently moved his hummusiya to new premises but he hasn't been able to have an opening party yet. At least there's always great falafel!
Ehud loves falafel with hummus but most people come for the pita pockets with Israeli salad and tahini. "They're a little pocket of love," he says. (Read Dani's original review here.)
108 Bank Street, South Melbourne, 0460 866 412, lhceatery.com
The best seller here is the harissa falafel with pickled cabbage, chopped tomato and cucumber, tahini, amba (spicy mango sauce), zhoug (green chilli paste) and harissa. "It's like eating a rainbow," says owner Troy Christou.
In recognition of the situation in Afghanistan, $1 from every falafel is donated to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre.
207 St Georges Rd, Fitzroy North, 03 9041 9000, justfalafs.com.au
The Pita Man
The original falafel – bright green with parsley, heady with cumin – is the most popular but I'm a fan of the red harissa version, bright and spicy with dried chilli paste. (Read Dani's full review here.)
97 Hawthorn Road, Caulfield North, 03 7038 0102, thepitaman.com.au