Egypt Fries Israel in London Falafel Cook-out

Israel's Uri Dinay of the Pilpel chain takes second place — and acknowledges that falafel was not invented in his home country.

A plate of falafel balls with tahini.
Asaf Evron

Egypt took first place in a London falafel cook-out last Sunday, according to The Guardian.

Represented by chef Moustafa Elrefaey from the Cairo chain Zooba, Egypt beat Israel, represented by chef Uri Dinay, into second place. Dinay's Pilpel chain has four branches in London.

Also competing were two London-based chefs, Abdullah Amin of Origin Of and Palestinian-Lebanese Rasheed Muhammed of Hoxton Beach.

A Lebanese team was unable to compete because its members were denied visas to the United Kingdom.

Hosted by food critic and writer Daniel Young, the London falafel festival at Borough market was part of the UN’s International Year of Pulses , which aims to highlight their nutritional benefits.

The Guardian's Rachel Shabi described the fusion falafel from Origin Of as "creative... but with a three-bean mix sprinkled with two different seeds and served with three dips, there is perhaps too much going on."

Hoxton Beach's offering, she said, was "perfectly crumbly but somehow bland." However, she was impressed by its "incredible, freshly made, Iraqi-style mango pickle."

Pilpel, she said, "goes full Israeli style, crisp but slightly dense chickpea balls stuffed into pitta bread with fresh salads, pickles and sauces."

The real accolade went to the Egyptian falafel. "Made with ground-on-the-spot fava beans, leeks, fresh coriander and spices, and stuffed with smoky aubergine, this falafel is light and delicate and delicious," Shabi wrote.

As for the perennial question of who invented the falafel, the winner was happy to take credit. “I don’t think falafel is Egyptian,” Elrefaey said. “I know it is.”

He described his offering as an “authentic, classic recipe, with a tweak.”

Israel's Dinay was magnanimous in defeat. “We didn’t invent falafel,” he said, acknowledging that the Egyptian rendition of the chickpea balls was the tastiest.