Further to the introduction to my recent adventures in Mercado Roma, let’s get down to brass tacks and talk about the delicious felafel at Arbanus.
Having been a vegan for four years (thankfully no longer), Enrique is enamoured with food from the middle east. Being a healthy vegan in Mexico is almost impossible. It’s a meaty kind of place. The beans are normally laced with lard and the street food is all fried (often in lard) on the same surface so if you want a quesadilla with mushrooms and courgette flowers be prepared to see it fry next to the quesadilla filled with chorizo. Middle Eastern food, on the other hand, offers some variety from Mexican food and you can be sure to find felafels and hummous on the menu.
Arbanus has lots to choose from both veg/vegan and meat. It’s not cheap but it is good.
We opted for a felafel and some little minced meat (chicken in this case) croquettes and they were both delicious. The felafels are made with broad bean (hava bean) rather than chick pea so they are a gorgeous bright green colour before they get dropped in the hot fat to fry.
They are made fresh and fried in front of you so they were crispy on the outside and soft and moist on the inside. YUM. We could have eaten a plate of them on their own. However, it’s the bread that is the star of the show.
The pitas are smaller (10 cm in diameter) and fatter (1 cm in thickness) than any other pita I have seen. They look more like another mediterranean bread called, in Croatia at least, Lepinja, than a standard pita. Before the pita is stuffed with your freshly fried felafel balls, it is popped on the grill to warm up and get a bit charred.
Then the top 10% is cut off, the pita is opened, and stuffed. Generously stuffed. The top 10% of the pita is not thrown away but is used to garnish other dishes, like the meat croquettes we had. So that is nice – it’s not wasted and it is show cased just in case diners decide they want to buy some to take home (which they can!).
The interesting thing about these pitas is that they had great flavour so were probably fermented over a long period of time and are clearly cooked by frying rather than baking. The tops (before they are thrown on the grill and get charred) are mottled in the way that you get on pancakes, drop scones, or french toast when it is shallow fried. The texture was uniformly soft and doughy and the insides were substantial. So, today I am going to make pita. I will use the great recipe that I have in my first book All You Knead Is Bread but I will use white rather than whole wheat flour and I will fry them rather than bake them. Will report back later…