Fuul Medames

Even being in Egypt for a short time as I was, one can’t avoid encountering fuul. Fava beans show up all over Egyptian cooking (more deliciously, in my opinion, in ta’amiya) but simple fuul is one of the basic staples of the Egyptian diet.  It is Eaten at all times of day, especially at breakfast. In the hotel I stayed at in Alexandria, it was the breakfast served to Egyptians, while foreigners got the Syrian treatment of bread, cheese and fresh vegetables (at this point in the trip the last thing I needed to eat was more beans so I embraced my foreignness).

Fuul is, at heart, a big pot of beans, cooked slow until soft and mashable. There is a actually quite a variety of fava beans available in this world, and in fact fuul is the general Egyptian term for them, but it most commonly refers to this dish of small, round fava beans cooked until they are mushy (fuul medames to be exact). People make this at home in special pots, but I also often saw housewives and children go to local restaurants to have whatever container they happened to have filled up with the stuff.

Pot o' Beans

I’ll concede that that doesn’t look or sound too appetizing. For me, the best part of fuul is not the beans themselves, but all of the toppings: fuul is served with a variety of additions, which each diner can add in at their preference. I assembled a fine passel of ingredients, including lemon (very important), ground cumin, aleppo pepper, pickled beets and rutabagas, minced parsley, salt and pepper and yogurt (the yogurt is more of a Levantine thing as well. I just gravitate that way). Chopped hard-boiled eggs are traditional, but yuck, none of those for me.

As with many things, the garnish is the best part

Once you’ve added all your fixins’ you mash it all together on your plate and then eat it with plenty of pita bread.

And some arbitrary small pictures

OK, so it’s a little disconcerting to dig into a big pile of beans for breakfast, nor does it bode well for anyone who needs to spend time with you that day in an enclosed space. But if you can get over that, this gives you a really hearty start to your day.


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2 comments on “Fuul Medames”

  1. Amy 3 April, 2009 at 4:50 pm

    Tom, Dad wants to make this on Sunday but what would be the closest substitute for an aleppo pepper? (I can’t believe he would do the pickled beets). This meal looks really tasty to us. We’ll go ahead with the eggs, too.

  2. Tom 3 April, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    Aleppo pepper is fancy red pepper flakes; I’m not even sure I can tell the difference. The complete list of recommended garnishes from my Egyptian cookbook is: crushed garlic, grated onions, chopped tomatoes, cumin, hard boiled eggs, onions soaked in vinegar and mixed pickles. In The New Book of Middle Eastern Food Claudia Roden recommends: lemon, cumin, pepper flakes, parsley, hard boiled eggs, cucumber-tomato salad, scallions, tahini-cream sauce, pickles, vinegar soaked onions, garlicky tomato sauce, feta, olives, yogurt and small cucumbers. Obviously you wouldn’t want to use all of these at the same time but that gives you an idea of the breadth of toppings that would work.

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