My junior year of college I studied abroad in Israel, where I spent some of the best time of my life traveling, laying on the beach, and drinking legally before age 21. I didn't want to come home. Despite intensive Hebrew study and 5 months surrounded by native speakers, I've retained an embarrassingly small amount of what I learned, probably because I was among locals impatient with my clumsy attempts and roommates who insisted on always practicing their English with me. In fact, there is only one sentence in Hebrew I can fluently remember these days and I definitely know it's because the only time I regularly spoke Hebrew while in Israel was to the guys who ran my favorite falafel stand in Haifa, where I very quickly learned how to order either a full or half-sized order in a pita, with white cabbage, tomatoes, cucumbers, pickles, and hummus. And since I ate there at least three times a week, it's not surprising that my ordering skills are burned into my brain b'Ivrit (don't ask me to write it out though, that I cannot do).
Considering that I didn't even know what falafel was before arriving in Israel, it very quickly became a staple in my diet, and, combined with the hummus plate I ate for lunch almost everyday, a sure culprit in the 10 pounds I gained there. I've since dialed back my falafel consumption, but it remains among my favorite foods, as does shawarma, it's meatier counterpart that I basically ate for 20 percent of all other meals.
Here, I've disrespectfully smushed both together into one hybrid dish, courtesy of my search for socca perfection and my adoration of tacos. The shells themselves take place of the falafel, with a spiced and herbed chickpea batter fried up and folded into a handheld pocket for harissa-coated and slow-roasted lamb that is falling apart under a garnish of Israeli salad and lemon-spiked tahini sauce. Authentic? Who cares, It's definitely delicious!
Falafel Shawarma Tacos
Makes 6 tacos
"Falafel" socca shells:
1 cup chickpea flour
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp red chile flakes
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbs olive oil
1 cup plus 2 tbs water
Harissa roasted lamb shoulder or leg (I used this recipe, which meant I had leftovers, which I did not mind)
1 persian cucumber (or one small english cucumber), diced small
1 tomato, diced small
1 tbs minced red onion
fresh ground black pepper
2 tbs tahini paste
fresh lemon juice
- Prepare lamb according to recipe. When lamb is almost done (either almost out of the oven or resting), begin preparing the rest of the components. Whisk together all falafel socca ingredients until smooth, then let rest for 20 minutes. While resting, make your toppings. For the Israeli salad, mix together cucumber, tomato and onion, season with salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil, enough to lightly dress the vegetables. Toss together and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together tahini paste and a squeeze or two of fresh lemon juice, then set aside.
- Heat a griddle or cast iron pan (or other non-stick pan) to high. When pan is hot, spray with vegetable oil or grease with bit of olive oil, then drop 1/4 cup of batter onto the pan. Cook each socca 1-2 minutes per side, then flip and cook 1-2 minutes more. Set each warm socca into the grooves of an upside-down muffin tin and let cool slightly to set into taco shell shapes (see notes for crispy tacos).
- To assemble tacos, fill each shell with lamb and top with Israeli salad and tahini sauce. Serve hot.
- For crispy tacos, bake socca shells in the upside down muffin tin for 20 minutes at 350 degrees.
- Shawarma to me means lamb, but you can easily substitute with chicken or even a meat-free alternative, to make this vegan if you like.