Egyptian national dish: ful medames

The Egyptian revolution calls for a plate of ful medames, or Egyptian brown fava beans, Egypt's national dish.

Cooked Books
The Egyptian national dish ful medames (fava beans) is shown here with hard-boiled egg and parsley.

While it may seem rather small to acknowledge the historically momentous events in Cairo last week with a plate of food, I can think of few better ways to to mark the occasion and celebration of the Egyptians than with a dish of ful, or dried fava beans.

In her book "A Book of Middle Eastern Food," Cairo-born chef and cookbook author Claudia Roden calls ful medames "'the' national dish of Egypt" and is a meal that is "pre-Ottoman and pre-Islamic, claimed by the Copts [Egyptian Christians], and probably as old as the Pharaohs." Roden's recipe calls for dried ful, soaked and then cooked with crushed garlic, served with lemon, olive oil, and hard-boiled eggs.

In her later edition, the "New Book of Middle Eastern Food," she acknowledges canned ful as something accepted by expatriates who improve on its shortcomings with spices and flavorings. While neither Egyptian, nor an expat, I've used the canned ful to great success in this recipe recited to me by a friend and following much of the same guidelines as Roden's. And while perhaps not traditional, I enjoy my ful medames with plain yogurt or labne.

Ful medames (Egyptian brown fava beans)

1/4 cup olive oil or more.
1 medium onion, chopped fine
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
1 can of ful (fava beans), drained (I add some of the liquid from the can to the dish. You may want to add all the liquid, but then watch the salt).
Some cumin, coriander, cayenne
Salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil over medium heat until warm and then add the onion until softened, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic until fragrant, 30 seconds or so, and then the ful with spices and salt and pepper. Cook until warmed through. Add more liquid or olive oil if the dish looks to be dry.

Serve with lemon wedges, hard-boiled egg, and parsley and a drizzle of olive oil on top.

Rebecca Federman blogs at Cooked Books.

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