Going Gluten-Free: Fawaffles highlight Surfer’s Wife Kitchen menu
Waffled falafels, or fawaffles, are baked rather than fried. They come in three flavors: traditional cilantro and parsley, roasted peppers and chili, and potato and curry.
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After nearly 10 years in Hawaii, Yonatan Armon was really missing the food of his homeland, Israel. “There aren’t a lot of options here,” said his wife, Maya Mordechay.
So the couple decided to prepare their own traditional dishes, and since Armon is dedicated to healthful eating, their menu is vegan and gluten-free. They first shared the food with friends and neighbors and got such great response, they asked themselves, why not make a business out of it?
In late 2017, they did, and Surfer’s Wife Kitchen was born.
At their tent at three farmers markets weekly, Armon and Mordechay offer a short Middle Eastern menu centered on their waffled falafels, or fawaffles, which are baked rather than fried. They come in three flavors: traditional cilantro and parsley, roasted peppers and chili, and potato and curry.
The fawaffles are drizzled with a choice of sauces that add flavor and creaminess, a perfect complement to their crunchy texture. Sauces include a classic tahini embellished with beets; a bright carrot, ginger and vinegar concoction that gets its umami from miso; and a cilantro and wasabi aioli made with cashew cream.
“We get a lot of tourists at the Kakaako market, many of them Japanese, and they aren’t familiar with our food. But the miso and wasabi sauces open them up to our food,” Mordechay said. “We worked hard to get good gluten- free sauces.”
THE MENU also includes an aromatic lentil-rice dish called mujadra (to replace the traditional pita, which contains gluten), hummus and an Israeli coleslaw. The fawaffle plate ($14) includes all the items and is hearty and generous enough that it can easily be shared by two with average appetites.
But if you’re going solo, a mini plate ($11) is still plenty generous, with two fawaffles and all the fixings; a hummus dip plate ($9) is a fawaffle-hummus combo; and a lettuce wrap is $6. Armon usually offers a special as well. On a recent Saturday, it was dolmas — local chaya leaves (tree spinach)stuffed with brown rice, lentils, sunflower seeds, raisins and fresh mint. Mordechay said they often feature Israeli desserts.
Though the couple got cross cultural with the drizzling sauces, they towed the line on tradition with their hummus. Mordechay said they find it amusing that hummus comes in so many flavors in the U.S.
“In Israel, there is only one kind of hummus, and my husband uses a very specific recipe. We laugh and call ourselves hummus snobs — there are no preservatives in our hummus, but it still lasts up to a week.”
I CAN understand why they’re picky. Armon’s hummus is the best I’ve ever had, a perfect balance of wonderful creaminess, lively tang and the richness of the beans and oil.
They’re a perfect side to the fawaffles, which took time, and the help of a food scientist, to perfect. The challenge came from baking the falafels instead of frying them, and Mordechay said the original recipe resulted in a dry product. After six months of tinkering, the couple came up with a recipe they liked. They use only garbanzo beans — traditionally, falafel isn’t made with wheat flour, Armon said — so their fawaffles are friendly for gluten-free eaters.
In addition to the various plates, bags of frozen fawaffles (eight for $12) are available to take home.
“We found out that they taste better when reheated in the toaster. They have an added crunch,” said Mordechay, adding that they enjoy hearing how their customers prepare the fawaffles.
“Some people eat it with hummus or in a sandwich with yogurt or tzatziki,” she said. “One woman said she feeds them plain to her 1-year-old twins. It’s finger food. Some folks take it to work and toast it in the office. Some people cut it into pieces and crumble it on their salads like croutons. We get great ideas from our customers. Sometimes we’re really surprised.”
SURFER’S WIFE Kitchen serves fawaffles at three FarmLovers farmers markets:
>> Waimea Valley: 2 to 6 p.m. Thursdays, 59-864 Kamehameha Highway
>> Kakaako: 8 a.m. to noon Saturdays, corner of Ward Avenue and Ala Moana Boulevard
>> Kailua: 8 a.m. to noon Sundays, 120 Hekili St. (Pali Lanes).
“Going Gluten-Free” helps meet the cooking and dining challenges faced by those on wheat-free diets. It runs on the first Wednesday of each month. Send questions to Joleen Oshiro, firstname.lastname@example.org.