Foul (ful)

Recipe Corner: Memories of Aleppo’s Favorite Foul (or fūl)


LOS ANGELES — “Foul, fool, (or fūl) is an ancient Middle Eastern breakfast going back (some say) to Egypt of the 5th century BC. It was mentioned in the Talmud Yerushalmi, indicating it was used in Middle Eastern countries since the 4th century,” says Alec Ekmekji. “It is a beloved dish across the Levantine and Middle East region, and is a common part of the cuisines of Arab, Middle Eastern and African cultures. Ful medames is consumed as part of the  Lent diet by the Christian communities in Arab countries. There are many restaurants that serve nothing but this dish in Aleppo, either for eat-in or take-out.”

In Syria, the dish is prepared in two basic ways: Foul Mdammas Bez-Zeit (fava beans with olive oil) and Foul Mdammas Bel-Laban (fava beans with yogurt). The “mdammas” or “medames” part (spellings vary) is said to refer to the way it is prepped and describes how it is “mashed” or “mixed” with other ingredients. This version is from the celebrated Memories of Aleppo, Our Favorite Middle Eastern Recipes published in August 2016 by Aleppo natives and authors Seta Ekmekji and Rhoda Margossian.

“Some writers have suggested that ful medames dated all the way back to <> Ancient Egypt. Some evidence of the use of ful is a cache of 2,600 dried fava beans unearthed at a late Neolithic site on the outskirts of  <> Nazareth. This cooking method is mentioned in the <> Jerusalem Talmud, indicating that the method was used in Horn of African and Middle Eastern countries since the fourth century.”**

Haj Abdo alFawwal by Angelique Sanossian

A few years ago, Seta Ekmekji (Alec’s mother), and her sister-in-law, Rhoda Margossian decided to document their family’s recipes to leave to their children and grandchildren, a project that slowly developed into a life of its own, and turned into an impressive ethnic cookbook. “Memories of Aleppo is a collection of one family’s treasured recipes that can be made and enjoyed for many generations, including this recipe that perhaps is the best breakfast dish in the whole world,” adds Seta.

Aleppo, Rhoda says, can boast one of the richest, most diverse cuisines in the world. It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world; it may have been inhabited since the 6th millennium BC. Excavations at Tell as-Sawda and Tell al-Ansari, just south of the <> old city of Aleppo, show that the area was occupied by  <> Amorites by the latter part of the 3rd millennium BC.

Syrian cuisine as a whole is a fusion of foods from all around the Middle East. It consists mainly uses eggplant, zucchini, garlic, meat (mostly from lamb and sheep), sesame seeds, rice, chickpeas, fava beans, lentils, cabbage, cauliflower, vine leaves, pickled turnips, cucumbers, tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice, mint, pistachios, honey and fruits. “Despite its wide acclaim, only a handful of Aleppo dishes are ever served at Middle Eastern restaurants today, including here in Los Angeles,” says Alec. “It remains an ancient cuisine of many enormously talented and gifted cooks and chefs.”

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Aleppo’s Abu Abdo, for example, is a ful parlor specializing in ful, a typical breakfast meal: fava bean soup with a splash of olive oil, lemon juice and Aleppo’s red peppers. This family business has been open for over 70 years. “On a recent day, the owner ladles ful into plastic bags for the to-go crowd — workers as well as businessmen — because it’s the best in town. Abu Abdo has become a kind of trademark for the ful in Aleppo,” says Samir Akkad, a regular customer and a native of the city.”***



1 15-ounce can fava beans (drained and rinsed)

1/4 cup water

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed

Topics: Foul (Ful)

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon Aleppo red pepper

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, to taste

1 medium or large tomato, chopped finely

1-2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 medium white onion, sliced lengthwise into wedges

Sliced boiled eggs

8 sprigs fresh mint, to taste

Fresh pita bread


Add the fava beans to a medium pot. Add the water and bring to a full boil. Simmer the beans uncovered for 5-10 minutes or a little longer. Remove from stove top.

To the pot, add the garlic, cumin, Aleppo red pepper, salt, and lemon juice, and stir. Adjust seasonings to your taste. At this point the fava beans should taste sour. Add more salt or lemon juice to taste.

To serve, place a serving of the cooked fava beans in a bowl, top with chopped tomatoes and their liquid, as well as parsley and olive oil. Serve with pita bread, onion, sliced boiled eggs, and fresh mint, if desired.

Tip: The best way to eat this dish is to scoop the fava beans up with a piece of pita bread. Serve with extra chopped tomatoes, if desired.

Serves 2.

Memories of Aleppo, Our Favorite Middle Eastern Recipes

Published August 2016 by Seta Ekmekji (Author), Rhoda Margossian (Author)

Memories of Aleppo is a collection of one family’s favorite Middle Eastern recipes written by two Armenian sisters-in-law who were both born and grew up in Aleppo, Syria. The recipes in this book are the traditional cuisine of the Armenians who lived in Aleppo. Many of the dishes are vegetarian and vegan. The dishes were photographed by their son/nephew, Raffi Alexander at Spiderbox Photography. To purchase, go to: or


*** “Aleppians take pride in their cuisine and fool or fūl or has a special place in it. The old city of Aleppo used to have the best Fawwals. In al Jdeydeh for example, Haj Abdo alFawwal was the most famous place in town. People came from different cities to taste one of the best fool dishes in the world at his little authentic restaurant. Haj Abdo was always there himself to open his shop every day at dawn and would serve fool until five in the evening. Haj Abdo made ful medammes for over fifty years in the <> Al-Jdayde (Jdeideh) District of Aleppo. Abu Abdo al-Fawwal ( <> Arabic: أبو عبدو) is a  <> ful parlor located in  <> Aleppo, <> Syria. The shop was established in 1885 by Abdel Razzaq “Abu Abdo” al-Masri at <> al-Hatab Square, near the Zamaria house in the  <> Jdeydeh Quarter of the  <> Ancient City of Aleppo. The parlor was famous for Levantine and Aleppo style fūl dishes. Usually, the fava beans are left simmering in large copper jars throughout the night, to be served from the next morning on; the beans swim in tahini and olive oil, completed with a hint of red pepper paste over the top. The sauce of tahini, lemon and garlic is added and then once the fool is brought back home, people add olive oil and some spices. Aleppians like to eat fool with a large white onion – as sweet as an apple, as people from the city often say. Alongside, you should have a large cup of sweet tea. The shop was one of the oldest, most famous parlors in Aleppo. Before the conflict in Syria, on any busy street in Aleppo on a Friday morning you would see a long queue in front of one small shop. Everyone in the line, including children, would be carrying a big bowl and would be waiting to take home fool, the traditional breakfast of choice for the people of Aleppo. In 2013 the shop was severely damaged during the clashes between the Syrian Army and the militants of the armed opposition. The shop was  relocated to a nearby street since late August 2012.” See:

Authors Rhoda Margossian and Seta Ekmekji

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