We’ve been in Paris for a week now and are almost due to come home. We’ve eaten many good things (macarons, croissants, terrines, fromage blanc, braised rabbit, et cetera et cetera) but interestingly enough it’s been the falafel sandwiches that have really made an impact.
Just a few blocks from our apartment, on the Rue des Rosiers in the Jewish quarter, is a collection of competing falafel shops. They also serve schawarma, merguez sausages and other sandwiches to go, but falafel is really the star attraction here.
L’As du Fallafel is the granddaddy of the falafel shops, and the one that gets all the attention in guidebooks. As promised, there was a fairly long line, plus a falafel hawker out front doing everything but actually grabbing people off the street and shoving them into line. I had heard, though, that another place was actually better, so we resisted the hawker and eased our way through the crowds to the other side of the street.
Mi-Va-Mi was the place we ended up going to. I can’t say if their sandwiches were better than L’As, but I honestly can’t see how they could be improved upon. They do falafel with ALL the fixings.
We told the guy to make ours with everything. This included pickled red cabbage, green cabbage, roasted eggplant, cucumber, tomatoes, hummus, yogurt sauce, and hot sauce. He composed each sandwich carefully, layering in the vegetables with the falafel spheres, then pouring the yogurt over the top. He looked at us as he was building them and asked, “You want spicy sauce?” and we nodded enthusiastically. He poured a good ladleful of what looked like harissa over the top.
By the end, the pitas were so full they were like soup bowls, and were served with forks. Carefully taking ours wrapped in wax paper and napkins, we found an unoccupied bit of curb down the next street and dug in. After eating about half the filling out, we were able to set the forks down and begin eating our sandwiches the normal way.
And the falafel! It was fresh, very crisp on the outside and soft inside, and bright green. The vegetables were wonderful on their own, and with the hot sauce and hummus it created a divine combination of flavors. We scarfed our lunch sitting in the gutter, surrounded by dozens of other people doing the exact same thing – some propped up in doorways, others sitting cross-legged on the curb. The “spicy sauce” was very spicy, and our mouths tingled for a long time afterwards.
The best falafel in the world? It could very well be.
More from Paris once we’re home and un-jetlagged!