In the Beginning
there was Falafel
Around the year 30 A.D., Nathanael inquired “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Around the year 2010 B.C., Bay Area citizens questioned, “Can any good food come out of Fremont?” The answer is yes, on both counts, thanks to Ramzi and Zuhad of Falafel, Etc., both of whom are natives of Nazareth, Israel. Ramzi and his brothers would help out at his father’s locally renowned falafel shop after school. Between the time the last school bell rang and the last of his homework was polished off, Ramzi practiced everything from preparing the namesake seasoned chickpea patties to treating guests with classic Middle Eastern hospitality. Now as an adult, his father’s original shop is no longer, and Ramzi has uprooted from the Middle East to the East Bay. After a long career in the tech industry, he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and open a restaurant of his own, right here in Fremont.
Ramzi and Zuhad met in 1989 and it was love at first site. They married later that year and Zuhad relocated to the United States. An expert home-maker, Zuhad is not shy in the kitchen. She is not a stranger to authentic Arabic cooking, but she is also not afraid to venture outside the box. Her dinner table can boast a variety of international foods from the Far East to the Far West. And when it comes to desserts, Zuhad has the secrets to a wide range of Middle Eastern to Western delights.
The Fast Food of
the Middle East
So, what is a falafel anyway? Recipe-wise, it’s a fluffy fritter made of ground chickpeas and fragrant seasonings like cumin, cilantro and parsley. Geography-wise, different versions of this dish can be found in Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, and Greece, among other places. The Egyptians make Falafel using fava beans, the Lebanese use a mix of chickpeas and fava beans, while in Israel and Palestine chickpeas are the main ingredient. Meal-wise, the falafel is to the Middle East as the hamburger is to the United States. That is, hand-held and delectable fast food. But unlike America’s favorite patties, falafel patties are vegetarian and considered pretty healthy.
What sets our fast falafels apart? After years of making his father’s falafel recipe, Ramzi has perfected his own formula, blended fresh every morning and kettle fried right before your hungry eyes. Biting into the falafel, you get the crunch of the freshly fried outer layer, revealing the tender, bright green interior flecked with spices. There’s also a secret ingredient that we don’t mind making public: to make the falafel balls extra fluffy, we add a bit of baking soda. Aside from using top ingredients for all of our dishes, our food philosophy is that a recipe is merely a list of components if there’s no TLC; it’s more about how you prepare it rather than what goes in it.
Et cetera, Et cetera
Besides falafel, what other authentic and salutary dishes are to be eaten on-the-go? Covering the et cetera territory in Falafel, Etc., you can begin your meal in typical Middle Eastern fashion with a mezze. The mezze is an appetizer course that gives guests a sampling of many small dishes. A trio of creamy baba ghannouj made with roasted eggplant, smooth hummus dip and fresh tabbouleh salad of parsley, bulgur wheat and tomatoes will give you a diverse mezze experience. Crunchy pita chips dipped in garlic labneh, a thick and slightly sour yogurt blended with fresh garlic and hot peppers, is also a great way to start your meal with authentic flavors. For the main event, savory kafta kabob is broiled to seal in the juices and yield a caramelized exterior. Similar to Greek gyro, there’s spit-roasted halal lamb and chicken shawarma, which can be served as a sandwich topped with crunchy house-pickled turnips and drizzled with creamy sesame tahini sauce or as a full meal with a choice of two side orders and soft pita bread. For those that love to dip, slather, and pour, there’s a saucy condiment bar with extra tahini, mint-infused yogurt dip, and onions tossed in red sumac spice.
Although the fare at Falafel, Etc. is served hot and fast, we invite you to take a break from the everyday race and savor the flavors of the Middle East. Linger over your meal with honey-sweet baklava, homemade and fresh, or warm Knaffee, a dessert made with sweet, white cheese surrounded by crispy threads of Fillo dough and drizzled with sweet syrup. Just because the food is fast, doesn’t mean you have to be. Slow down with good friends, good food, and good fun.