Falafel is a fried ball or patty of spiced fava beans or chickpeas. It is a highly popular form of fast food in the Arab East. Falafel is also very common in Israel, being regarded there as a national food. The word "falafel" comes from the Arabic word meaning pepper.
Falafel is traditionally served as a filling ingredient in a pita bread wrap and the term "falafel" commonly refers to this sandwich. Falafel in a pita is typical street food (ie. fast food). Along with the falafel balls, which may be crushed onto the bread or added whole, various toppings are usually included. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack or served as part of a mezze. During Ramadan they are sometimes eaten as part of an iftar, the meal which breaks the daily fast after sunset.
Falafel is now seen as a uniting, pan-Middle-Eastern dish. In recent years, immigration from the Middle East to Western countries has brought with it a broader availability of Arab and Middle Eastern cuisine, and the falafel sandwich has become a popular and iconic food within alternative fast food movements, and indeed has spread world-wide