By Nadia Suleman
June 18, 2019

Tuesday’s Google Doodle features a short animation of three falafel balls jumping into an open pita filled with hummus, tomato, and cucumber. As Google itself put it, falafel is “the best thing that ever happened to chickpeas – with the possible exception of hummus, of course.”

Although, as Google notes, the origins of falafel are unclear, it is a treat that has been enjoyed across cultures for centuries.

India is by far the largest exporter of chickpeas in the world, producing over 9 million metric tons of the crop in 2017, according to Statista. Australia is a distant second at 2 million metric tons. Israel has long had a love affair with the crispy chickpea delight, paying homage to the popular street food with its own song: And We Have Falafel.

While some claim the treat has Egyptian roots, Google notes that the nation puts its own twist on the deep-fried balls with their variation dubbed “ta’amiya,” which uses fava beans instead of chickpeas.

Different cultures also use a variety of toppings to put their own spin on their falafel sandwiches. Google notes that fried eggplant is popular in Iraq, while mango sauce is popular in India and hot sauce in Yemen.

Falafel is often found in areas with prominent Middle-Eastern or Jewish populations, as well as large metropolitan areas like New York City, where falafel has endured as a popular street food.

And falafel fans should know that the world’s largest falafel was prepared by ten chefs at the Landmark Hotel in Amman, Jordan, in 2012. According to Guinness World Records, the treat weighed in just shy of 165 pounds and the group “followed the traditional recipe of chickpeas, parsley and coriander with mixed spices.”

Write to Nadia Suleman at nadia.suleman@time.com.

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