The falafel that's taken New York by storm
Why is the gluten-free falafel at Taïm so good? Even chef Einat Admony doesn't know.
Believe it or not, "Manhattan's falafel queen" (so dubbed by New York magazine) hated falafel as a kid. Because traditional Israeli falafel includes baking soda, and sometimes old pita, Einat Admony was always left with a bad aftertaste and wicked heartburn. Yet it was one of the things that she missed most about her native Israel.
So in her adopted hometown of New York City, she set out to make a version with no baking soda, bread or flour. She retained the typical Israeli green falafel flavor profile of parsley and cilantro, amped up with the addition of fresh mint. After three dedicated months of recipe testing and tinkering, Chef Admony’s gluten-free green falafel was born.
The Taïm restaurant in the Nolita neighborhood of New York. (Photo: Courtesy of Taïm)
It’s the signature falafel that launched Taïm (pronounced tah-eem), the diminutive West Village falafel and smoothie bar that Admony opened nine years ago with her husband Stefan Nafziger. Between the original West Village shop, their Nolita location and Taïm Mobile, their food truck, the team makes between 6,000 and 7,000 balls per day. Clearly, the city has developed an appreciation for it, and Taïm's falafel is considered among the best around. So what makes them so crispy and addictive?
“It’s a secret. I don’t know. I really don’t know," Admony told From The Grapevine. "Smaller balls [mean] more surface of crispiness than moistness. The way we grind the chickpeas in a meat grinder.”
Equally addictive are the red pepper and harissa flavors she developed to round out the falafel menu, also available in a pita or on a platter. Admony prefers to eat them as a sandwich so that she gets a complete bite with all of the tahini, cabbage, pickles and sauce.
Taïm's signature falafel in made in three varieties: with red peppers, with Tunisian spices, and the traditional "green" variety. (Photo: Courtesy of Taïm)
Those pickles and sauces are part of the reason the falafel sandwiches are so addictive. Ambra, a pickled mango-fenugreek chutney, is typically Israeli, while Taïm’s tahini tends to be a bit thicker than the usual Israeli sauce. The s’rug sauce, a typical Yemeni hot sauce, is Admony’s father’s recipe, but you can find different versions of it throughout Israel. Smoother-than-smooth hummus and Israeli salad (chopped cucumbers and tomatoes) round out the mix.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of tasting Taïm falafel, you are in for a real treat. But prepare to be hooked. For a first-time order, Chef Admony’s recommendation is as follows:
“You first need to make sure you don't eat anything at least seven hours before going to Taïm and you don't have dinner plans later," she said. "I would go with a Harissa falafel sandwich on white pita with everything but no pickles and a sabich (fried-to-order sliced eggplant) on a white pita. On the side get an order of French fries and a date-lime-banana smoothie. A perfect meal.”
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