113 - Falafel: It's all in the Beans

By Mary Luz Mejia

In Lebanon, falafel shops populate almost every street corner with savoury sandwiches wrapped in soft pita flatbreads.

Here in Toronto, we have Akram's Shoppe in Kensington Market to fill the void. Unlike the soggy, grease-saturated falafels we've all choked down at one point or another, Akram has been making his fantastic light and crunchy version in Toronto for 11 years now.

The cornerstone of Akram's success lies in the fact that he uses a unique blend of beans in his falafel. He mixes soya, mung and fava beans together with 11 herbs and spices to create his crispy, flavourful interpretation.

Akram falafelWhat sounds like the Colonel's secret recipe is a healthy combination that, according to Akram, aids in digesting the sandwich. Herbs like dill and cumin make their way into the mix, while chickpeas are intentionally left out.

Traditionally, a fifty-fifty split between broad beans or fava and chickpeas, along with some seasonings, comprise the typical falafel mix. Akram says his are chickpea-free because these would soak up too much oil leading to a less-than-fresh tasting result.

He definitely has something there, because a falafel pita from Akram's means the falafel mixture is cooked to order, wrapped in your choice of white or whole wheat pita, spread with home-made hot pepper paste, purple pickled turnip, red cabbage and an assortment of other fresh goodies.

An explosion of textures and fresh flavours greets you in every bite and I figure, when you can't get to Lebanon, let Lebanon come to you through your taste buds. Bon Appetit or Sahteyn as they say in Lebanon!

Akram's Shoppe
191 Baldwin Street
Toronto, Ontario