Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Ful Medames

For Rosie

Along with Aseeda, Ful Medames is the national dish of Sudan and, according to Alan Davidson's monumental Oxford Companion to Food, Egypt.

During our two year stay in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur, Rosie and I would eat Ful five or more times a week. It is delicious and, surely, it must be addictive.

What is Ful Medames?

Alan Davidson explains that ful a variety of the Fava bean, or, as it is known in Europe/America, the Broad bean, Vicia faba. t is strange that I hate British Broad Beans (the alliteration begs capitals!).

Ful is brown, British Broad Beans are green. Sudanese/Egyptian beans have been dried, whilst in the UK they are eaten fresh. It is strange that I hate British Broad Beans (the alliteration begs capitals!). I assume the cans of ful I am now able to buy here (of which more anon) must be rehydrated before canning.

We would stroll down with a Scots couple working alongside us in local secondary schools, and who lived around the corner to the major crossroads where there were a conglomeration of local outside eating-joints. We had a favourite as it made us feel welcome. On the short walk home we would stop at a small Eritrean famine/war refugee-run shop that sold baclava, pistachio nuts and all. Yum! They doubled-up as a tailor shop in the day.

To bring our "wives" into an all-male street cafe, eating outside etc in a Muslim society at 6 o'clock at night might beggar your belief ... but Darfur, believe it or not given the current situation (I cannot speak for the rest of Sudan), is culturally a very tolerant society. Yes - if Rosie and her Scots colleague finished work earlier than their spouses, they wouldn't eat lunch at our busy crossroads joint, but they did find a quite backstreet cafe where they would not be hassled by rough misognyist types.

Back to ful ...

I cannot do more justice to the subject than Alan Davidson's entry in the Oxford Companion to Food, too long to quote here. But the Wikipedia entry is also well-written and provides a couple of links on how to prepare it.

In Darfur it could be ordered "plain" or garnished with grated local cheese - a hard, pungent and spiced (carroway, cumin, poppy seed? Ican't remember) cheese that came in thick twisted "plaits". Oil poured over and eaten with flat unleavened bread. You could add a hard-boiled egg and accompany it with a tomato side-salad.

The enormous ful saucepan must never stop from one day to the next - more ful was just added to last night's left-overs.

Once a week I would choose what one might call Dal for a change.

About two years ago a young Lebanese businessman (and now not the only one) opened a supermarket here. I didn't visit for over a year but was eventually persuaded to ... only to find cans of ful and hummous. Flabbergasted, I have become a regular customer!

Unfortunately, he does not import tahini, so I cannot make my own hummous (chickpeas are widely available here - and I did bring back two jars of tahini - one dose left !).

Our cans of ful come from China!


Lea White said...

I have never heard of this dish - does it taste good?

Angus said...

It is superb! I'd almost say addictive!