Last May, an article on the Guardian website declared the best falafel recipe to be from Egypt (Alexandria, to be precise) – a statement that didn’t sit too well with the Lebanese. But if our Levantine brethren were in any doubt, Zooba Chef Mustafa El Refaey’s success at the inaugural edition of the London Falafel Festival is more proof of the almighty power of the Egyptain ta3meya.
The festival, which took place on May 1st in London’s Borough Market, brought together some pretty big names from the English capital’s more hip, alternative food scene, including Uri Dinay of popular Middle Eastern fast-food restaurant, Pilpel, Abdulla Amin of caterer and travelling kitchen, Origins Of, and street food kings, Louai Fares & Rasheed Muhammed, aka Hoxton Beach.
Facing some creative adaptations of the falafel – including Dinay’s almost legendary ‘Trilafel’ beetroot falafel made with chickpea, black-eyed-bean, red lentil, and served with herb-infused tehina, Scotch bonnet mayonnaise and sumac yogurt dips, yum – Zooba’s El Raefaey’s falafels were voted the best by festival attendees.
The winning creation was El Rafey’s trademark charred aubergine-stuffed fava bean falafel, served over baba ghanough and drizzled with beetroot and hibiscus tehina. The win is a huge achievement for El Reafey and Zooba, which can rightly claim to be one of the main instigators of the, what you might call, cool-ification of traditional Egyptian food.
El Reafey’s success is made all the more significant when considering the setting. As one of the oldest and biggest food markets in London, Borough Market attracts thousands of every week and celebrated its remarkable 1000th birthday in 2014.
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By Kalam El Qahaira