More common than tacos in Mexico, fuul is the staple dish of the Sudan. Boiled fava beans, served like a stew with fresh cheese, fresh herbs or salad, a dash (or smothering) of olive oil and salt, fuul is actually quite filling. No pun intended. Boiled in a special pear shaped pot, fuul is probably the most common food at the local ‘hole in the wall’ street cafes in the Sudan.
I know boiled fava beans sounds rather bland, but I actually liked fuul. Maybe because it was the exact opposite of the spicy Ethiopian stews. Served with pita and eaten with your hands, I got quite used to and even looked forward to our daily allotment of fuul. That being said, the quality did very from place to place and some was very watery and bland. With such variations in the toppings- from plain onion to tomato and cucumber salad to tahini to a hot red pepper sauce, a description of all the different types of fuul would begin to sound like a Sudanese version of Bubba’s shrimp recipes. There’s plain fuul, fuul with cheese, fuul with tomato, fuul with cucumber, fuul with parsley and oil, watery fuul, fuul with pita.
In the early 1990s then President Bush withdrew food aid from Sudan, resulting in severe food shortages. Although we never came across it, a poor man’s fuul- made with the excess water drained from the cooked fava beans- became common place in southern Sudan. Legend has it that this dish is called “Bush” for reasons which aren’t that hard to figure out. Again never saw it, but thought the anecdote was worth passing along if only for a bit of political humor.
And yes, the fava beans would go well with a nice Chianti….if only there was a bottle to be found in the Sudan.