Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Introducing Dubai’s falafel superstar

Juicy, soft and green on the inside, just as a falafel should be
I think I’ve found it! Yes, this is Dubai’s king of falafel. They are the best I’ve tasted in the five years I’ve been in the emirate, and I’ve tried a few.
Since the start of the Holy Month of Ramadan, some friends have been getting them nearly every night and that’s how I got addicted.

Dukkan Falafel is tucked...
... at the back of ENOC petrol station
Dukkan Falafel is not where you would normally look for a falafel outlet. My friend Aboudi discovered it by chance recently when he stopped to fill petrol. It is tucked at the back of ENOC petrol station, coming down from what used to be Defense Roundabout towards Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah side, just before Life Pharmacy.

The cozy seating area
Dukkan Falafel is open 24/7, but during Ramadan the timing is 5 p.m. to 4 a.m. You can enjoy a meal in the modest four-table restaurant, pick up, or call for delivery. You can visit Dukkan in these photos.

Mohammad and Amir
I was immediately welcomed by the friendly staff on duty the evening I passed by. Amir and Mohammad were happy to answer my questions and explain the “Dukkan” (Arabic for shop) specialties.

Dukkan’s falafels are freshly deep-fried using zero transfat Canola oil. The four branches work without a freezer. They get fresh ingredients daily. The other branches are in ENOC Al Warqaa, Meadows and Gardens. More are planned for Sports City, Jafza and Al Bustan Center in Dubai and as well as Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

Dukkan Falafel is one of four chains – Tawasy, Chinoodles and Tandoori Trail – operated by Alternative Dining Experience, a company started in the UAE in 2009. It offers alternative concepts to customers, creates innovative and exciting new segments in dining, enters regional and global joint ventures, and franchises these concepts. The company’s strategy is to distinguish its restaurants by consistently emphasizing high-quality food and service and offering generous portions at moderate prices.

One of the menu boards
Dukkan's reasonable prices
And I thought the prices were very reasonable by Dubai standards: 12 falafels for AED 6 ($1.63) or 24 for AED 10 ($2.72).

As I had written in Introducing Beirut’s king of falafel (3 May 2011), it is difficult to trace the origin of falafel, the small, fried croquettes. Probably ancient, and often hijacked by different countries, it is accepted falafel originated in Egypt, where the Copts claim them as their own as a replacement for meat during Lent.

Except in the port city of Alexandria, falafels are called ta’amia in Egypt. They are made with dried broad beans or fool. In Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan they use dried broad beans and/or chickpeas.

It is maybe from Alexandria that falafel was introduced to the rest of the Middle East and spread worldwide. Made from ground chickpeas and/or fava beans, they are usually served as a sandwich in Arabic bread with pickles, tomatoes, mint or parsley, hot pickled peppers and drizzled with a tahini sauce. Some prefer to eat them without the bread and just with the tahini dip.

Mohammad making two falafel sandwiches...
... in Arabic bread
Dukkan Falafel’s Amir and Mohammad explained the supplies and falafel mix come fresh from Tawasy every day. Owned by Ramy Wardeh, Dukkan uses the Palestinian and Jordanian recipe of making falafel with chickpeas. Among the other ingredients they use in the mix is plentiful of parsley (hence their green center), pepper, garlic and a special mix of spices.

Tawasy Gourmet Catering, Dukkan’s supplier, is a home, events and banquets delivery service with an extensive menu of genuine Arabic and Mediterranean cuisines. All the ingredients, like the fries, cut eggplant, cauliflower florets, vegetables and the falafel mix are delivered to Dukkan Falafel and then cooked on-site, as I witnessed when orders started to pour in just before iftar, or the evening meal when Moslems break their dawn to sunset fast during Ramadan.

Four choices of bread
Amir and Mohammad got busy frying fresh falafels, fries and aubergines for the orders. They offer four varieties of bread for the falafel sandwich – Arabic, Panini, Ka’ek and Dukkan.

Dukkan Falafel has five falafel sandwich choices – asli (original), with herbs, tomato and their special tahini sauce; bil foul with fool mudammas or mashed fava beans; fakher with sautéed vegetables and tahini; ala kefak (to your liking) with your choice of filling; and bil khoudra with fresh tomatoes and vegetables.

They have event platters, eight different hummus choices, three of fool and plenty of side dishes. You can even explore their menu on their site before ordering.

Ready to fry a fresh batch
Oh boy, do they taste good!
I couldn’t help but have a few while Mohammad was frying a new batch and oh boy, do they taste good! They are nice and crispy on the outside; juicy, soft and green on the inside -- just as a falafel should be.

If you try Dukkan Falafel, I’d love to hear your verdict.

Related post: Introducing Beirut’s king of falafel, 3 May 2011