Foul mudammas – fava beans with garlic, lemon juice & olive oil

FoulMudamas © J Horak-Druiff 2010


What’s in a name?

Maybe we should ask some of the big companies that experienced translation problems with their products in recent years. Consider, for example…

… the Mitsubishi Pajero.  These 4×4 vehicles were all the rage in South Africa’s moneyed classes in the mid-1990s.  But in Spanish slang, pajero is a term for a person who enjoys, well, umm, pleasuring themselves.  Perhaps not the effect they were aiming for!

Irish Mist, a delicious and evocatively named whisky liqueur.  Except in Germany where it would translate as “Irish dung”.  Tasty.

Kinki Nippon Tourist could not understand why, instead of people requesting tours of Mount Fuji, teahouses and cherry blossoms, they were getting people requesting rather more risqué tours :o)

… energy giant Powergen who bought themselves a nice, shiny new domain name for their Italian division, and then wondered why everyone was laughing at them.  Not sure WHAT you’d be searching for if you went looking for, but I’m pretty sure it would not be cheap electricity!

I am endlessly amused by this sort of thing – just like when Jif Cream (an ammonia-based bathroom & kitchen cleaner) here in the UK was inexplicably rebranded as Cif Cream.  In South Africa, “siff” is slang for disgusting, so not sure if the brand would take off there…!  I also giggle every time I walk past a leather good store in Spain.  Unlike English, which distinguishes between skin for humans and leather or hides for animals, skin and leather are both translated as piel in Spanish.  And as my guffawing South African readers will already have noticed, piel is the Afrikaans slang words for a certain dangly appendage that boys have but girls don’t :o)

You can probably see where this is heading, given the post title…!  Last night I was looking up a recipe on my blog when it suddenly struck me that I was about to miss the dealine for my sister-from-another-mother Meeta’s Monthly Mingle event. Panic!  Looked in my fridge for anything that could be relevant to host Beth’s Lebanese theme this month… and my eye fell on some rather, erm, geriatric fresh broad/fava beans.  Problem solved!

Foul mudammas (various spellings seem to exist!) is a dish descended from the Egyptian fūl medames – a dish of lightly mashed fava beans with oil, parsley, onion and lemon juice usually eaten as a breakfast dish in Egypt.  Why breakfast, you may ask, seeing as it sounds more like a dinnertime side dish?  In the Middle Ages, during the day at the Princess Baths (a public bath in a tiny compound near the Muhammad ‘Ali Pasha sabil (public drinking fountain) building), bath attendants stoked the fires heating the huge pots of bath water. When the baths closed, these red embers of the fires continued to burn, and to take advantage of these precious fires, the pots were filled instead with dried fava beans to make fūl.  The cauldrons were kept simmering all night, to provide breakfast for Cairo’s population, and shops throughout Cairo would send call at the Princess Baths to buy their wholesale fūl. The dish (or a version of it) eventually spread throughout the eastern Mediterranean countries, including Lebanon, where a slightly less soupy version that the Egyptian one often forms part of meze platters.

I can’t pretend that my dish is a particularly authentic Lebanese version – probably safer to say Lebanese-inspired,  before the foodie correctness police come and get me!  In my defence, I only had fresh fava beans; I had to double-pod them as they were a bit long in the tooth (!); and I discovered that my faithful parsley plant had died :( so no fresh parsley in the garden.  Ah well, you get the picture!  I served mine as a side dish, but with a little extra olive oil and pillowy pita bread, it would  make a fabulous starter too.  The key is to use good olive oil, fresh garlic and fresh lemon juice (and fresh parsley, if you are not mourning the death of your parsley plant!).  Because it is such a simple dish, there is nowhere for substandard ingredients to hide!

And once you have tasted it you will know to pay no attention whatsoever to the negative connotations of the word “foul” in the name :)


FOUL MUDAMMAS (serves 2)


1-1.5 cups fresh fava beans, boiled and double podded
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp fresh parsley (I had to use dried)
1 tsp snipped fresh chives


Pod the broad beans, drop them into a pot of boiling water and cook for about 6 minutes.  Drain and rinse in cold water until cold enough to handle.  Remove the skin from ech bean.

Lightly crush the beans and mix them with the garlic, oil, lemon juice and herbs.  Check for seasoning and add salt to taste.  Serve cold or warm with fresh pita bread.



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  1. says

    Ah very funny indeed. I just learned (from a South African, perhaps, based on his e-mail address?) that the word I commonly use for refrigerator — frig, from the Frigidaire, no doubt, so spelled frig but pronounced fridge — has another completely unintended meaning. I’d love to scour my sites to fix this but the search function makes no distinction between frig and reFRIGerator or reFRIGerate. Yikes … there are something like 300 posts with some bad guys in there …

  2. says

    I’m chuckling away at this. I knew what Pajero meant it Spanish so it was the “in” joke at the time it came out. Jeanne my sweet – thanks for whipping up a foul for Beth and joining us at the Mingle! Love love fava beans!

  3. says

    Fuhl for breakfast is one of my favourite things! Although, I can’t say that we’ve ever made it with fresh fava beans. In fact, we rarely use fava beans at all and generally make fuhl with dried kidney beans. (Ah, the beauty and freedom of being from this melting pot, Canada. We can use whatever we want and call the finished dish whatever we want….)
    (Love those translations of names. The Powergen one is priceless.)

  4. says

    Here in Beijing a popular canned drink is Pokari SWEAT – it is heavily advertised as replacing depleted body fluids! Somehow I just can’t bring myself to try drinking a can…Sweat..I ask you, who thought that one up?

  5. says

    Hilarious post – I have been loathe to try foul medames because of the name but have heard good things about it elsewhere but no one has written about the name with such great humour. I had these small misunderstandings when living in london – I remember my work colleagues laughing at me talking about someone losing thongs on a cliff side walk (I meant footwear, they meant underwear) and before my time Australian’s talked about durex meaning sticky tape but for poms it meant condoms so many misunderstandings ensued there!

  6. says

    Hilarious! And that site is still going?!
    WE have broad beans in teh veggie garden at the moment, so I’ll have to have a go at this. in Italy they often served a broad bean puree on crostini, so could use it like that too.
    And another good mis-translation in Italian – if you ask for food to be made ‘senza preservativi’ you are asking for it without condoms…

  7. Lies Spaink says

    Grinning… reminds me of the story of the Swedish brand of vacuum cleaners called Electrolux that was introduced in the Englis speaking market with the slogan: Nothing sucks like an Electrolux…
    At least one meaning of the word “suck” got lost in translation there.

  8. says

    OMG you are hysterical – great info and a hearty guffaw! I think a great job that could earn someone millions would be a language/slogan advisory board that checked to make sure your name or slogan doesn’t mean something extraordinarily filthy in another language.
    And I love fava beans and think this is a great dish.

  9. Sarah Pipilini says

    YOU might have only witnessed, or had first hand experience at the dangly versions, however, my dear little honey bun, may I put the record straight…

  10. says

    Sounds wonderful – but I think I have to wait for spring for the favas…. Unless I can find them dried…. Must look. And don’t forget the American movie ‘Free Willy’ (about a whale – get your mind out of the gutter)

  11. says

    Bahahaha! This is just about the perfect post, anything remotely juvenile humour-ish is right up my alley. In Vienna, people say “Bum oida” which translates as “Yeah man.” Naturally you can see how I would find this endlessly amusing. The beans look good too…Beans, another source of fart jokes ;P

  12. says

    I know these as Foul Mesdames, I do love beans like this but often lose the will to live when shelling them twice. My favourite international brand was the Swedish toilet paper called Krapp or something. It was a regular on Clive James type shows.

  13. says

    A very punny post!
    I have followed your post for a very long time and when I was considering starting a blog your comment that you went to your study while a friend was visiting and then and there started your blog made me so despondent and envious. It took me forever, infact I had a test blog set up[ private] and learned a lot through it and you can see when you visit my site that it is still so basic. I have enjoyed your posts very much. Thank you, Sandhya.

  14. says

    ROFL Jeanne :-) You certainly have the thing to entertain.
    A lovely dish by the way, simple, easy with lots of flavors. No fava beans here now…

  15. says

    there is really a funny thing about the names in the past. i really laughed hard upon reading the first part of the blog. i was so entertained, you just took out the curiosity in me in the name of the recipe.
    Anyway, nice dish. i love beans as appetizer.

  16. says

    I never use to use cnaned beans or cnaned anything for that matter, but now, I’m expecting my 4th child, and with 3 little ones to take care of and a vegetarian husband, I am very busy. So, yesterday, when I went shopping, I stocked up on cnaned beans. I bought a can of butter beans and when I got home, I thought, what the heck am I going to do with these? I found this recipe and was impressed how easy and yummy it looks. So I did it, and WOW! My family went nuts for it. THANKS

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