- Oil (Vegetable, sunflower or olive oil) – 2 tbsp.
- Red big onions – 3 (sliced)
- Tomatoes – 2 (sliced)
- Green chilies – 2 (sliced length-wise)
- Canned foul (cooked) – 2 (white or red)
- Chili powder – 1 tbsp. (optional)
- Coriander powder – 2 tbsp.
- Cumin powder – 1 tsp
- Salt – to taste
- Fresh coriander – Garnish
I was born in Yemen and grew up there, until I left at 17 years of age, as it was time to leave for my higher studies.
Although I am Indian by birth, only Yemen felt like home, and that hasn’t changed after all these years. I haven’t been able to visit my home for more than six years now.
This Yemeni dish is one of the first ones I learnt to make – firstly because I didn’t want to beg my mom to make it every single time I needed comfort food, and secondly because this dish makes, not just me, but my entire family remember our time at home and the life we enjoyed in Yemen.
About the dish
Cooked fava beans in popular Arab cuisine is believed to have originated in Egypt thousands of years ago, as far back as the fourth century A.D. Foul or foul medames is also a major part of cuisines in other Middle Eastern and African countries including Djibouti, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Eritrea, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia.
Canned vs Dry Beans
One would consider using the canned cooked beans a cheat method but cooking fava beans from scratch can be pretty time consuming. This recipe is designed to be done with store-bought canned cooked beans. You could also use beans canned in tomato sauce, just skip on the tomatoes in the actual cooking process if you do this.
However, if you are taking the long yet equally tasty route, soak the dry beans in water overnight allowing space and water enough for the beans to expand (almost triple their volume). Rinse the soaked beans and throw the water away. Boil these in water for one to two hours until they turn soft throughout yet not mushy. Keep aside once cooked.
Prep your veggies and spices
Slice onions, chillies and tomatoes and keep spices on hand
Heat the oil in a non-stick deep pan. Sauté the sliced onion on low heat until the onion gets transparent. You will know the onions are done when the spoon can cut through slices easily and the sharp smell of onions lessens.
Add tomatoes at this stage and sauté for a few minutes. Wait for the tomatoes to get a little mushy and release their moisture.
Mix in the green chilis and stir for a few minutes before adding chili powder, cumin and coriander powder. Stir regularly as the spices cook. Make sure your heat isn't too high (ideally medium low), or the spices might burn turning the entire dish bitter.
A tip here is to try recognising the smell of individual spices – if you can still differentiate between the chili powder and the coriander, the cooking isn’t done yet. It should amalgamate into one glorious scent and flavour.
Once the mixture is almost paste-like (add half a cup of water if you feel the mixture is too dry or isn’t cooking through), add the canned or boiled foul. For people who like a lot of gravy, add the foul in with the canned water/oil/sauce or you can drain it a bit for a drier dish.
Gently stir the foul in with the spice mixture. Once mixed well, check if it requires a little water or some more of the canning liquid used, and add as required.
Close the pan and let it simmer on medium heat until it reaches preferred consistency and the beans absorb the spices. Once done, take the pan off the heat, garnish with cut fresh coriander.
Serve hot with kuboos or khubz from the store or even Indian roti, naan or chapattis.