The secret’s in the seasoning

| 27 Jun 2012 | 03:11

It’s 10am. Allan’s Falafel opens for business in an hour and a half. It’s time to turn a 10-pound tub of chickpeas, a bunch of parsley, a bunch of cilantro, an onion and about ten garlic cloves into 300 falafel balls.

Allan Abbad chops the parsley, cilantro and onion – from Dagele Brothers Produce, a farm in Florida, NY – mixes all the ingredients together, and scoops heaping bowlfuls of the seasoned chickpeas into a meat grinder. What comes out of the grinder are pale yellow tubes resembling spaghetti. Two thirds of the falafel mix go through the grinder twice; one third, only once. The larger, once-ground particles keep the falafel ball open, Abbad explains, “like sand in soil,” so that it deep fries all the way, staying soft and fluffy without absorbing too much oil.

Abbad, 44, has been doing this since he was a teenager living near Tel Aviv. During school break he got a job washing dishes at a restaurant. The chef took a liking to him and taught him how to cook. But this falafel is no one’s but Abbad’s, the product of years of perfecting. “Everybody has their own recipe,” he says over the thrum of the meat grinder. “Go anywhere in the U.S. or in Israel and you’ll find nobody will make the same thing.”

What he’s done until now is fairly standard, and Abbad is eager to share. What comes next is the seasoning that makes his falafel his. “I will tell you some of it,” says Abbad. “But not all of it.”

After I turn around from a conversation with Abbad’s wife, Tatyana Abbad, about what it’s like working with her husband (“fun and not fun”), Abbad has added the secret seasoning. Even the container is gone. What did he just add? Cumin, coriander, salt, baking powder, and , he shrugs, “other seasonings.”

He tastes as he mixes, then adds more salt and more water. “I don’t really use any measurements,” he says, tasting again.

When the mix meets his approval, he spoons the falafel mix onto a spring-loaded falafel ball maker and drops the balls into hot oil. Minutes later, he lifts out falafel balls the shape of miniature muffins, plump, browned and slightly crispy.