What’s the most popular bean dish from the Middle East? Hummus, of course! But there’s another bean dish originating from the Middle East that’s a little less well known but equally (do we dare to say more?) tasty. It’s ful medames, also written as foul medames or foul mudammas, or just Egyptian foul: a rich in-flavour dish with creamy, buttery beans and zesty, fresh and aromatic flavour.
Ful medames is Egypt’s national dish but you can also find it in most of the Middle Eastern countries and the Levant. It is mainly served for breakfast, but you can find it as a mezze (small appetiser) or a light dinner option too. We definitely recommend trying it as a breakfast: it will give you the energy you need for the day and it’s a perfect alternative to a sweet, full-of-sugar breakfast. It’s also very quick to make if you use the right ingredients! Ful medames’ main ingredients are garlic, lemon, cumin, olive oil and of course the beans!
Fava beans: The underrated tasty legume
Fava beans have been a staple legume in the diet of Middle Easterns, unlike in the West where they are not so popular. They are very tasty, creamy and buttery beans that unfortunately have a very short season, but you can find them dry or canned all year round. When dried you have to soak them overnight to cook them. That’s why when cooking ful medames it’s easier, and much quicker, to use canned fava beans like California Garden or Cortas. The canned beans make the preparation time from hours, down to just a few minutes!
But what about the other ingredients for Ful Medames?
Garlic, olive oil and lemon Garlic and lemon are essential ingredients. But let’s focus on the one important spice of this recipe: cumin. You can use cumin seeds while preparing the dish by toasting them before you add the beans to release all their flavour. After cooking you can use cumin powder to decorate the dish and add extra flavour.
The olive oil in ful medames is also very important; you need to top the dish with a very very generous drizzle of good quality olive oil. We recommend olive oil with a peppery, almost spicy taste to top off fuel’s unique and rich flavour, like Zaytoun, one of the best quality extra virgin olive oil from Palestine.
The recipe for the best Egyptian breakfast
To make this a full Egyptian breakfast, fry some falafel (we recommend Basma half-fried falafel for quick simple frying, or try some from our Indie Chefs), add some labneh (we love Aunty Suzy’s Palestinian labneh and the Istanbul spread), cut tomatoes and cucumbers, serve along some olives, garnish with parsley and salt and there you go: a full Egyptian breakfast.
How do you eat ful medames? The Bread and Taghmees
Now here’s something that the recipe blogs won’t tell you… but we will. How do you eat ful? With ‘how’ we don’t mean what you’ll serve it with, but literally, how? And here comes the taghmees, the Middle Eastern way of eating food with bread.
Taghmees means dipping and it’s a very common way of enjoying food. You cut a small piece of bread - it needs to be Arabic bread, pitta, like fresh Dina bread, Rayan, or Shamsin, and either use it to grab food or use it as a spoon. For ful medames especially, since it’s a bit more of a liquid form, you need to fold the pitta bread in a particular way so you can grab the beans and all the liquid goodness of the tahini, lemon and olive oil. No need for spoons, just scooping!
There are many ways of taghmees. Stay tuned for an exploration of the other taghmees techniques with Arabic bread.
If you’re after a better selection of authentic cultural groceries, don’t forget to check out myjam.co.uk or download the app. We’ve got the widest choice of Middle Eastern cultural foods in one place