Along with koushari and molokheyia, fava beans are the three staple foods of Egypt. Once this post is published, you’ll be able to cook the basic Egyptian foods in vegan variations (most of them started out that way, anyway)!
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that fava beans are eaten thousands of ways in Egypt. Known as foul (pronounced ‘fool’), the fava beans lend themselves to so many different flavors and cooking techniques, it’s hard to keep track! In fact, you could probably write an entire blog just about how to cook and season fava beans!
Egyptians eat foul for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can find them gathering in the morning around small carts savoring warm foul with fresh bread on their way to work. You can hear the man selling foul in the evening walking by and calling out “fooooooooooooool!”. Just call out and he’ll bring you as much warm, freshly cooked foul as you can fit into your container.
When Egyptians make foul at home, they use a long-necked, tapered container called a “damasa” (that’s why this foul is called foul medammes). Supposedly this long neck is necessary to provide for the proper slow cooking of the beans. I never had one of these kitchen items, so I always stayed away from making my own homemade foul until I recently found a recipe that had an easy work around. So I thought I’d share the vegan version with all of you here on Alf Hana.
Serves 2-4 people
- 1 cup dried fava beans
- 4 cups cold water
- 1/4 cup red lentils
1. Wash beans and pick out any dirt or stones. Cover with the water. Leave to soak overnight.
Left: bean soaked overnight, Right: dried bean
2. Put both the beans AND THEIR SOAKING WATER in a heavy pot that has a tight-fitting lid. (Yes, you read that right. Do not discard the soaking water. Use it for cooking.)
3. Add lentils.
4. Cover tightly and cook on very low heat for 3 hours.
5. Check beans every hour or so and add water if they look dry. (I added about 1 cup after about 1 and a half hours.)
6. Try not to stir the beans while they cook. The beans are ready when they are soft and easily crushed with a spoon.
Cooked foul, before seasoning
I like to mash mine with a fork as I season it.
Typical way to eat foul. This technique is known as the 'rabbit's ear' because the way you scoop up the beans with the bread looks like the shape of the rabbit's ear.
Our foul feast!
Nutrition Information (for 1 of 4 servings, unseasoned foul):
Calories: 170; Fat: 0g (for unseasoned foul); Cholesterol: 0g; Carbohydrates: 29g; Fiber: 13g; Protein: 13g
Serving Suggestions and Variations:
Here’s with things get creative! To serve, use any combination of spice you like.
- Here are some traditional spices Egyptians use: salt, cumin, garlic, lemon, onions, oil, hot red pepper, parsley, tomatoes
- I usually like to have mine (about 1 cup of beans) with salt (about 1/2 a teaspoon), cumin (about 1/4 teaspoon), lemon (about 1/2 a teaspoon), and oil (about 1 – 2 teaspoons). I usually keep the onions and tomatoes separate so I can munch on them after every few bites. Of course, foul wouldn’t be foul without baladi bread (much like pita bread).
- Some Egyptians like to purée the foul in the food processor before serving.
- Most Egyptians would not serve the foul seasoned. They’d leave you to make it the way you like it!
- Alexandrian foul is famous for its mix of tahina, parsley and oil.
- Sometimes I like to have foul with oil and tomato paste or pureed tomatoes – yummy!
- Try different kinds of oils (olive, corn, etc.) and see which you like best.