I stared disbelievingly at the bowl of drained chickpeas, my ego imploding like the crumbly innards of a deep-fried falafel. I had just delivered a 10-minute discourse to a world-famous chef about the falafel mahshi (stuffed) at Sultan Falafel (04 227 5559). "They are not the common chickpea kind," I rambled, "but instead made of green fava beans that are often traced back to Pharaonic times." The forest-green bellies of the falafel represented a piping hot piece of history, modernised at the centre with an evolutionary tomato stuffing.
I had naively digested the fava bean explanation through many a green falafel mahshi but the chef was not convinced. He had to hear it from the mouth of the falafel maker himself, a volatile man who views my falafel obsession with the suspicion of one zealously guarding his trade secrets from a sneaky competitor. After 10 relentless minutes of recipe interrogation, the exasperated falafel maker finally caved in, pointing to bowls of coriander, parsley, fried cauliflower and the guilty chickpeas that turned my fava bean story into a mortifying falafel farce. If there was ever a time to curl up and hurl myself into a scorching deep-fryer, that moment facing the chef would be it.
Deeply disturbed, I returned the next day to inquire about the recipe again. Part fava bean, part chickpea, I was told. I sighed in resignation, convinced they would never serve me a singular version of the recipe. All I could do was concentrate on the taste, something I had forgotten to do in my many rushed and less discerning falafel binges. That afternoon, I rediscovered the vegetal bite of the coriander seed, the spicy sourness of the onion filling, the fresh fragrance of the parsley lingering on my breath as I exhaled. In place of a fried food that I had so easily commoditised, I found a fried treasure worth a virgin taste all over again.
Arva Ahmed blogs about hidden food gems in Old Dubai at www.ILiveinaFryingPan.com