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Sudanese Immigrant Serves Up the Best Falafel in Los Angeles | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Media ID: 55369445

Amin Musa | Clarissa Wei

Los Angeles – Falafel has many flavors because of the many ingredients it can be prepared from, but apparently, the Los Angeles Palate newspaper saw that the most delicious Falafel is being prepared in Los Angeles by a Sudanese immigrant called Amin Musa.

“If you bite into a Falafel and it’s not green, it’s not good” said Musa.

“The insides are a vibrant hue of green. And it takes a moment, before it hits: the intensity of the dill, mixed with the nutty swirl of crushed garbanzo beans” he added.

Musa said that Falafels were a main dish of his diet when he lived in New York City. Mamoun’s in East Village was a shelter for university students, often drawing long lines out into the streets, he added. While to him, Falafel were just tasteless deep-fried cheap balls of beans wrapped in pita, the Sudanese migrant noted.

Musa’s version is much more complex. You can actually taste the spices, and he breaks into a huge smile when he notices my surprised reaction.

“Everything in there is organic and made from scratch,” he says. “It takes so much time. We soak the chickpeas and grind the dill from scratch.” It is the dill, he notes, that makes it a Sudanese Falafel.

Musa lived in many countries, he was born in Sudan and educated in Dubai, he went to university in Canada and eventually immigrated here to the United States. Yet, although he left Sudan at five, the food from his motherland has always been an irrevocable part of his identity.

“Sudanese cuisine is a combination of many Middle Eastern influences,” he says. “It’s similar to Indian, but simpler. The main spices are cumin, salt, pepper and cloves.”

In college, he became hooked on the Food Network and started experimenting with the tastes of his hometown.

Eventually, he adopted the concept of macrobiotic food, which focuses on whole grains, vegetables and beans, and something clicked. “Macrobiotic cooking is how we originally cooked in our family farms,” he says.

And so when he moved to Los Angeles, he spent two months planning and opened his first food venture — a Falafel joint by the name of Ihsan’s. It’s a vegan Falafel stand that makes its rounds across various farmers’ markets in Los Angeles.

Falafels are his bread and butter and you can get them served on pita bread, in a collard green wrap, or on a plate.

They are gently deep-fried and done in a way so that the exterior is crisp but the interior remains soft. The typical accouterments are grated carrots and homemade turnip pickles. For sauces, it’s his spicy peanut dressing, called dakwa in Sudan. It is made with creamy peanut butter, Serrano chilies, cilantros and jalapeños.

“The cilantros are my own personal twist,” he says. “It’s spicier in Sudan but here I added more peanut butter because people don’t like things too spicy.”

Musa hopes to one day open a brick and mortar here in Los Angeles. He says that among all of the places he lived in, California has been his favorite.

Even with the recent Trump immigration ban, which included Sudan on the list of seven countries that were affected, Musa says he hasn’t felt anything but positivity here in the Southland. In fact, the upside of the controversy is that more people have started frequenting his stand in a show of solidarity.