Ful Nabit, Damascus favourite snack.


I went to a boys only high school back in Damascus. I had a great group of friends, ten of us, stuck together like conjoined twins. If one wants to buy a jeans all ten of us went to buy that jeans. If one needed a haircut we all went for a hair cut. One of the greatest characters in that group was Issam. This guy lives his life in slow motion. He talked slowly, laughed slowly and responded slowly but he had an edge to him. He was completely care free. He didn't care about school, didn't care if he gets in trouble, didn't care about teachers and didn't care about his family. Nothing on Earth seems to worry or trouble him.

In our tenth grade as part of biology studies, we had to keep a notebook. We did home work, extra curricular activities, biology drawings and stuff like that. You work on this book all through the year and you hand it towards the end of the semester to be marked. Our friend Issam didn't keep one and the day before the books were due to be handed he decided to borrow Abed's (another friend) book to copy it.

We left school and Issam decided to stop at the food seller on the corner to eat some
Ful Nabit. Loads of kids were gathered around the Ful cart, somebody played a stupid joke, scuffle broke out and, true to form, my friend Issam dropped Abed's book in the large simmering ful pot.

We had such a good laugh the following day when we saw the hard crispy pages of the book. Even our biology teacher was in stitches when he heard the story. The only one who was not laughing was Abed especially when the marks came out few days later.


One of the best features of Damascus food scene is the endless number of street sellers offering all kinds of delicious snacks. On every corner of every street a man pushing a cart full of delicious grub. Food on offer changes according to the season. Mulberry juice, green almond, green plums, grilled chestnuts, corn on the cob boiled or grilled, Ma'arouk (sweet filled pastry), sugar cane, Tamari (thin rolls with grape molasses spread), prickly pears, and the list goes on and on. One snack in particular out-sells all others and is available all year round,
Ful Nabit.

Ful is Arabic for broad beans or fava beans. I had a long think on how to spell it in English. I would have chosen "fool" as that how we pronounce in Syria but I usually stick with wikipedia spelling. They used "ful".

Ful Nabit is boiled fava beans served with salt and cumin. The seller cart will have huge pot with the beans slowly simmering. The beans are served in a
proper glass or china bowls rather than paper wrap or a plastic plate, which I find adds a nice touch. to the experience. You usually get a glass of the cooking stock and half a lemon to accompany your ful. The cooking stock flavoured with salt , cumin and a squeeze of lemon makes a delicious (but not at all pretty) side drink.

Here is how to make Ful Nabit:

Dry fava beans 300g
Salt
Ground cumin

Soak the beans in plenty of cold water over night. Drain the beans and add to a pot with more cold water. Bring to boil then lower the heat and let simmer for about 90 minutes.

Cooking time will vary depending of the beans size and type so make sure you check the beans every once in a while. If you can squeeze the flesh out of the skin like a paste then you are ready.

To eat, bite the tip of the bean off and dip in salt and cumin. Squeeze the flesh into your mouth and discard the hard skin. It is not very sightly but it is delicious and truly addictive.

19 comments:

Sarah said...

what a funny story! Ful Nabit, as eaten here is also popular with my Tunisian neighbor, who makes it especially for the new year.

Victor E. Sasson said...

I love this story.

Celeste said...

Now those are some choices I would rather have here in Vancouver.
We run mostly fat laden hot dog carts here.
And while the aroma appeals to me, the calories do not.

Choclette said...

That's a great idea for pre-dinner nibbles with friends as it won't be something that is wolfed down in seconds. And the hassle of skinning the beans falls to the eater rather than the cook - I like it.

Joy said...

Your writing is such a pleasure! And my mouth is watering for ful with cumin and salt!

SydneyCider said...

Hi Kano

Loving your blog my friend. Such a funny story and you tell it well. The Lebanese have the same dish. We buy it from street vendors around the corniche area in Saida. Cumin makes it so fragrant.

Keep up the good work!

Fouad

tasteofbeirut said...

Really funny story; I always had ful with a bunch of garlic too, maybe that's just Lebanese or just us!

Cherine said...

Your story is so funny!!
Love ful with cumin :)

The London Foodie said...

Hi Kano,

Apologies for the delay but I posted my review of our Syrian Supper last night with some lovely pics of the various dishes we cooked from your site. Hope you like them.

luiz @ The London Foodie

Anonymous said...

Sounds great. I also remember having eaten ful cooked with yoghurt, lemon, cumin, salt and parsley (or sth along that lines) - what is that called? I quite liked it...

sarah

Kano said...

@Sarah @Victor Sasson @Celeste @Choclette @Joy @taste of Beirut

Thank you very much for reading and the kind words. You visiting, reading and commenting makes my work keeping this blog worthwhile.

@SydnyCider

Welcome to my blog. I am a big fan of your blog. I love the recipes and photography.

@Chirine

Welcome to my blog. I just visited your blog for the first time today. Really nice food.

@Sarah

The one you are decribing is Ful Mudamas. In Syria we have two varieties, Ful Bi Zit (Ful with oil) and Ful Bi Laban (Ful with yoghur) and that is the one you are describing. I am going to post a recipe soon.

gastrogeek said...

I love this story! And the recipe looks utterly moreish.

Anonymous said...

@kano - ahhhh, ok, I always thought only the version bi zeit was called ful muddamas. Thanks for explaining & looking fwd to the recipe as usual.

sarah

Kano said...

@Sarah

Strictly speaking, both are called Ful Mudamas but we hardly ever use the word in Syria. We refer to the dishes as Ful Bi Zit and Ful Bi Laban Or even just Ful.

cmiranda said...

Enjoyed reading your story.Thanks for sharing.

Kano said...

@Cimranda

Thank you for the nice words.

pityenlacocina said...

very cool story! i love these beans, i spain we also have them and we call them michirones, they are very popular in the south, and cooked in a stew with chorizo, its very hearty but delicious, but i love your way as well, i am glad i found your blog, I am a londoner like you, cheers!

Kano said...

@pitylacocina

Welcome to my blog. I am glad you left this comment so I got introduced to your great blog. I love the photography and the recipes.

We love broad beans in Syria. We use them green and dried eat them for any meal or as a snack like this version.

Did you see my breakfast Ful recipe

http://syrianfoodie.blogspot.com/2010/02/weekend-breakfast.html

Viagra Vs Cialis said...

I want to taste those snacks because I've never taste them it'd be perfect maybe if we eat them drinking beer that's the way I like to eat snacks.

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