Sunday, September 6, 2015

In Paterson, $1 bag of falafel is not as big of a bargain as it once was

The window of a Syrian wedding shop on Main Street and Gould Avenue in Paterson's South Paterson neighborhood, above and below.


The parking lot of Fattal's was far from full today, so I'm sure no one noticed me in my car when I ripped open a plastic bag, tore off a piece of whole-wheat pocket bread, wrapped it around a hot falafel ball and ate it.

At home, I ate two more still-warm falafel in the same thin, Lebanese-style bread with garlicky hummus I made the day before from a can I bought at Fattal's on a visit in April.

But when I emptied what was supposed to be two paper bags, each with seven falafel, into a storage container, I came up short.

It turns out Salah Edin, a Middle Eastern restaurant near Fattal's in Paterson, has reduced the $1 bag of falafel to five from seven.

That's still a good deal, and the ground-chickpea falafel are beautifully fried and greaseless.

At Fattal's, I bought two dozen cans of Al Shark-brand Moroccan Sardines in Tomato Sauce (99 cents each), and a package of Fattal's large homemade Spinach Pies (six for $8.99).

At Nouri's, 999 Main St., I bought a package of medium, Lebanese-style whole-wheat pocket bread for $1.25.

Salah Edin is at 995 Main St., and Fattal's is at 975-77 Main St.

At home, we keep cans of Moroccan Sardines handy to add to bottled pasta sauce when we prepare organic whole-wheat fusilli, shells, spaghetti and other shapes. The whole-wheat pastas are available at ShopRite, Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe's for $1.25 to $1.49 a pound.

Nostalgic for the past

Visits to the bustling Middle Eastern bazaar known as South Paterson once were filled with memories of the family meals of Syrian food my mother prepared every night in Brooklyn.

Now, all I can think about are the horrors of the civil war in Syria, where the brutal Assad regime indiscriminately bombs civilians.

I stopped into Aleppo Restaurant on Main and Thomas streets, to say hello to the chef and owner, Mohamed K. Jello.

The restaurant is named for the northern Syrian city where my parents were born.

While I was waiting for Mohamed to return from shopping for the restaurant, I spoke to an employee who was enjoying a bowl of ful mudammas or fava beans in sauce for breakfast.

He said the media have drastically under-reported the number of people killed during the Syrian civil war.

Libano Verde Hommos Tahina from Lebanon allows you to make your own at home by adding lemon juice, garlic and extra-virgin olive oil. The can for 99 cents, right, once 15 ounces is now only 13 ounces.

To make hummus from a can, I used fresh lime juice, finely chopped fresh garlic and extra-virgin olive oil, all to taste; chopped fresh mint and Aleppo pepper.

In April, five of the seven falafel for $1 at Salah Edin Middle Eastern Restaurant were still warm when I got them home, above. Now, you get five falafel for $1.

Salah Edin in April. Today, I walked past before I realized the restaurant had removed its sign in anticipation of getting a new one on Tuesday.

Kings Whole Wheat Pita is baked in Paterson without preservatives, but I couldn't find the thin, Lebanese-style loaves today at Fattal's or Nouri's, two Syrian bakeries on Main Street that have competed for decades.

Fattal's is a combination Syrian bakery, butcher, grocer and small cafe, with its own parking lot, at 975-77 Main St. in Paterson. The store also sells gold bracelets and necklaces, and other jewelry.

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