Egyptian Fasoulia

A plate of Egyptian fasoulia and rice

… The Arabic version is called fasoulia (Arabic: فاصوليا) and is found in EgyptIraqIsraelJordanLebanonLibyaPalestineSaudi ArabiaSudanSyria, and Yemen.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fasolada

As promised, I finally have a new recipe for you today. Fasoulia is the Arabic word for beans, and so there are dishes called fasoulia served all over the arab world, and it is closely related to fasolada, fagiolata, and even (more distantly) feijoada– all the various versions of Mediterranean cuisine have a similar bean dish somewhere in their repertoire.

If you’ve been with me since the beginning, you might recall that I shared a fasoulia recipe back in February 2020. At the time I said that the versions from different countries were fairly similar, so I wasn’t going to try to differentiate versions from different countries. After my journey through the world of feijoada, which revealed that what seem like subtle differences in the recipe can actually create dishes that really do have a noticeable difference in the final product, I decided to come back to this dish and see what happens when I try to find recipes for specific national versions of the dish.

Of course, working with recipes from a region that uses not only a different language, but a whole different alphabet makes that an order of magnitude more difficult than something from western Europe with lots of English language recipes out there. I first searched for three different anglicized spellings of “Egyptian fasoulia”, which only got me three or four different recipes (although with one spelling I got a lot of recipes for a version featuring green beans rather than dry beans; I believe there are a couple of other countries where this is a common variation as well, so I’ll probably share a version of that at some point in the near future). Since I didn’t have much to work with from searching in English I used the Arabic from the Wikipedia quote above, and used Google translate to find the Arabic for Egyptian, and did my search in Arabic, then translated those recipes to English. That gave me a much larger pool of source material to work from, so I don’t feel like I’m just stealing someone else’s recipe here. (Ok, In reality, figuring all that out wasn’t that big a deal, and didn’t take me much longer than any other recipes I’ve done, so maybe an order of magnitude is exaggerating, but I did have to dig deeper than usual to find my source material)

My version wound up looking kind of like baked beans, with a fairly thick, brownish sauce, compared to the fairly liquid, tomato colored sauce I saw in most of the photos on other recipes. I believe that my recipe wound up with quite a bit less tomato than most of my source recipes, probably because most of my sources didn’t list a number of servings and I wasn’t as carful about trying to adjust the numbers to they were all making the same size batch as I usually am, so the allspice to tomato ratio lead to a pretty dark sauce that just got darker with the long simmer. Which is to say I’m not convinced I came up with exactly what you’d get if you ordered fasoulia in Egypt, but it is delicious.

At first I wasn’t sure if recipes were actually calling for allspice, or if it was translating some Egyptian spice blend as allspice. I’m still not entirely sure, but In looking ahead to Iraq, I’m seeing it listed in some English language recipes from sources like The Guardian that I trust to have fact checked their stories, as well as in a list of common middle eastern spices, so I’m guessing it is an accurate translation.

This is one of those simple, tasty templates that you can easily adjust to suit your tastebuds. It turned out quite different than the version I posted 2 ½ years ago, and leaves me exited to see how this dish varies from country to country.


Egyptian Fasoulia

Serves: 4
Prep: 40 Minutes
Cook: 1-2 Hours
Total 2:40, plus overnight soaking

1 ¾ cups large white beans

4 ⅓ cups boiling water
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cumin

2 medium tomatoes
OR
2 cups tomato juice
5 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 ¾ Tablespoons corn or vegetable oil
1 small onion, diced
1 ¼ lb beef stew meat
Salt, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced

¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon allspice
2-3 bay leaves
1 ¼ cup chicken broth
1 chili pepper, minced

Optional:

⅛ teaspoon ground cardamom
Juice of 1 lime
¼ teaspoon sugar
1 chicken bouillon cube
¾ Tablespoon margarine 
¾ Tablespoon ghee

Pick over the beans, removing any bad beans or foreign objects. Rinse, drain, and cover with cold water. Leave to soak over night.

Drain the beans and place in a pot with boiling water, salt and cumin. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until just tender, 30-45 minutes. Add small amounts of additional water if needed. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, puree the tomatoes in a blender and dissolve the tomato paste in the juice. 

Heat oil in a heavy pot and add the onions. Sauté until golden. Add the meat, season with a little salt, and brown on all sides. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two, until fragrant, then add the tomato juice mixture, along with the black pepper, allspice, bay leaves chicken broth, and chili pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. 

Add the beans and continue to simmer, with the lid slightly cracked, until the beans and meat are tender and the sauce has thickened slightly, 1-2 hours. Taste for seasoning.

Serve with rice. 

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