The capital of falafel

Brownbook is an urban lifestyle guide focusing on design, culture and travel across the Middle East and North Africa.

Brownbook is published six times a year, and in 2013 we were asked to produce a supplement magazine about Malmö and its rich falafel culture. We designed and contributed all the content with the help of talented photographer Olle Enqvist.

The story

Across the Öresund Bridge, on the other side of the Danish capital of Copenhagen you'll find Malmö, the third largest city in Sweden. Malmö is a rapidly changing city and over the past 30 years it has grown by over 30 percent to more than 300 000 inhabitants. It's a young city with half of its population under 35, and with 40 percent of the inhabitants being immigrants. The mix of cultures has truly made its mark on the city and today the most common fast food in Malmö is falafel.

Falafel first made its appearance in Malmö in the mid 1980's when Ahmad Iskandarani opened his falafel stand. It was (and still is) situated under an overpass, on a small road called von Rosens väg in the Rosengård neighbourhood, and it was named Falafel N.1. He used a recipe passed down by his father Sadou Iskandarani, who ran two falafel stands in Lebanon, before the civil war forced the family to immigrate to Sweden.

Over the years more falafel restaurants popped up around the city, several of them run by brothers. When Ahmad Iskandarani started receiving good reviews, his brothers renamed their stands. Today there are ten restaurants and stands that carry the name Falafel N.1. All the restaurants are independent but they use the same recipe, have a framed photograph of Sadou, the godfather of falafel, and a cocky slogan ‘best in test’ – an epithet that they have carried since 1998, when Iskandarani’s falafel was named the best in Malmö by a local paper.

Falafel is served in schools, there is a company that makes soap from the oil it is fried in, and even one of the hamburger chains have started carrying a local specialty – the falafel burger. Everyone in Malmö has their favourite falafel restaurant, but you can’t really go wrong. All the falafel is freshly made, so it’s just a matter of finding what you like among more than 60 restaurants spread across the city.

The Orient House of Falafel N.1 is run by Youssif Iskandarani, one of the seven sons of Sadou Iskandarani who today dominate the falafel market in Malmö. At The Orient House they make around 1800 falafel balls each day.

In 2008 Youssif Iskandarani took the family falafel recipe to new heights by expanding it to be able to create frozen falafel balls, which are now sold in grocery stores. The product was the result of three years of research and product development assisted by food scientists from Lund's University and with help from the Skane Food Innovation Network.