10 Foods to Buy by the Side of the Road


A Middle Eastern Treasure: Falafel

Falafels are the perfect grab-and-go foods.
Falafels are the perfect grab-and-go foods.

Cosmopolitan urban dwellers in the United States have embraced many worldly treats, borrowing a few traditions from the vendors of the Middle East in particular.

This includes one of the most popular snacks on the streets: falafel. If you've never had falafel, or even if you have, you may not know exactly what it is. Falafel is commonly made from chickpeas or fava beans (and often a combination of the two). It is mixed with spices and water, and the mixture is molded into balls or patties that are deep-fried. They are often enveloped in pita bread for easy utensil-free consumption.

New York City's love of falafel was evidenced in the 2010 Vendy Awards, when a falafel vending cart called "King of Falafel" won the top prize. Since 2005, the Vendy's have been an annual competition in New York City between street food vendors, and falafel vendors are consistently among the finalists.

The popularity of falafel among Jewish people in Israel after World War II has caused them to claim falafel as Israel's national dish. However, many Palestinian Arabs believe their culture better deserves the credit for falafel [source: Pitcher]. But credit for an older ancestor of the falafel may go to Copts, early Egyptian Christians, who ate a similar snack during Lent, when they were abstaining from meat [source: Roden].