Yes, the McFalafel

It can only be good that McDonalds in Israel is now featuring the McFalafel, a fast food version of the ubiquitous Israeli snack food. In today’s Haaretz, there’s a long story by Tracy Levy on the McFalafel, but here’s what you want to know: how’s it taste:

Then we braced ourselves for McDonald’s falafel-patty. The tension mounted as my friend bit into it first and chewed thoughtfully.

“It tastes like falafel,” she said. I reached for the patty, hoping to discern what exactly that un-scientific statement of hers actually meant. The falafel-patty was, in fact, surprisingly not horrible. I would stop short of calling it delicious, but it was crunchy and pleasing and lacked that “fake” aftertaste that many people argue pervades fast food.

In a surprising turn of events, the falafel I had picked up from my favorite stand had been served to me without humus or tahina, making for one dry pita, which no one likes. The McFalafel, on the other hand, had veggies and a flavorful green tahina sauce, making for a more pleasurable eating experience. And when neither my friend nor I could take another bite, half a pita from the neighborhood stand was left on the plate, while the McFalafel was completely gone.

Having faced the McFalafel, I can say for certain that it is not as bad as one would imagine, and may in fact be pretty decent. But should tourists looking for a taste of original Middle Eastern flavor visit McDonald’s to satisfy their craving? I think the answer to that is obvious.

Falafel is a Middle Eastern food of mashed garbanzo or fava beans and various spices.  The best, according to Mediterranean cooking expert Cliff Wright, are produced by Egypt’s Christian Copts.  But entrepreneurial Israelis have worked to brand falafel, like hummus, as an Israeli contribution to the world market, despite the fact that the little fried hockey pucks predate the state of Israel by, oh, a few hundred years. 

No matter: Cultures spread food, and food spread cultures.  If the McFalafel takes off and comes to America, it can only help create more curiosity about its country of origin.  If a person’s first taste of a country or culture is a delicious bite of food, can enduring appreciation, if not love, be far behind.

In the meantime, for your LA falafel fix, I recommend Carnival and Pita Kitchen.  On the Westside, I’ll go to Sunnin, Haifa or Amir’s, but I do miss Magic Carpet…..