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Mar 8, 2009 08:38 PM

Foul Madamas in East Bay?

I have a friend who's really into food but has never tried foul madamas. Worse, he's really into fava beans.

Where in East Bay or Marin can I send him? Preferably a really soulful version from a place that puts more effort into the dish than your usual falafal joint, but not yuppified or healthified.

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  1. I haven't tried it yet and I'm no expert in this area even if I did. However, it is on the menu at Zaki Kabab House in Albany and I will vouch for soulful overall and and lots of effort and love put in there. Have them check out the roast chicken if they go.

    Chowhound thread on Zaki in general

    Anyone with any knowledge in this area tried madamas at Zaki?

    Does Turkish Kitchen have it?

    Anyone tried the new place on Shattuck, Cyprus?

    1. I second the recommendation of Zaki. I haven't tried their ful yet, but it seems like the kind of dish they'd do right.

      Sunrise Deli has it on the menu. Haven't tried it. Their felafels are the best.

      I can vouch for Old Jerusalem's, but it's in SF.

      Sunrise Deli
      2456 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704

      Zaki Kabob House
      1101 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA 94706

      1. There's also Habibi in Fremont (Lebanese). I haven't been there yet but they have foul moudammas.

        3964 Washington Blvd, Fremont, CA 94538

        1. Much as I love the fresh fava beans we enjoy out here during the spring, that doesn't translate to dried fava beans used in foul. I like foul well enough, but it's nothing like fresh favas.

          22 Replies
          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Melanie, foul can actually be made from fresh favas! Ali, at Kabab Cafe in NYC, does a particularly nice version!

            1. re: Jim Leff

              Now, foul made with fresh favas would be worth investing some chowhounding time. Middle Eastern restaurants, let alone good ones, aren't that common out here and few Egyptian or Levantine among them so far. Our Turkish options have improved in the last six years or so, and I'm hoping for an influx of Lebanese as the next wave.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                You know, a fresh fava foul caught my attention also. Dried beans were making my eyes glaze over.

                So much so, that since I was planning a doner sandwich at Turkish Kitchen, I decided to stop at Zaki and add the foul to my lunch menu. Here's the report on the Zaki thread

                I don't know if someone is going for fresh favas if this would appeal to them, but anyone who likes dried favas would like this. I don't even like the dried version and I mopped up every last bit with the pita.

                It is made with love, skill and pride like everything at Zaki.

                1. re: rworange

                  Sunnyvale had a fine Egyptian restaurant, Sahari, that closed a few years ago. They made a wonderful fuul medammes among other great things. That fuul medammes is still available via their catering service: Not an East Bay restaurant, but the best I've had in my limited experience.


                  1. re: mdg

                    Thanks, rworange and Michael, both sound real good!

                    1. re: Jim Leff

                      Don't know how good it is, but in my other Med post someone recommended Babalou's in Walnut Creek. Taking a look at the menu there is Fool on the menu. It does have chickpeas in it. Elsewhere on the web the fool mudammas gets thumbs up ... or rather ... 'awesomes'.

                      Just curious, outside of the fresh fava version, what do you consider a good version of this dish ... and is it better that it is whole beans or mashed?

                      I liked this a lot and given it seems easy to make, I might give this a try at home ... saw some fresh favas at the Berkeley Bowl.From my lunch at Zaki's, I'm guessing good olive oil is key to the dish. I also liked the idea for the dried version recipe I found that it is served with a fried egg sometimes.

                      1. re: rworange

                        I've never had an authentic version that wasn't mashed, but then again this is a dish I've only had in dozens of places, not hundreds or thousands, and I've never traveled in the Middle East.

                        Should be unctuous with olive oil, and the beaniness should be well-tamed by the auxiliary ingredients. Also, like a proper biryani, the ingredients shouldn't be overly mixed...each bite should be strewn with a unique balance. And it should be appealingly moist, not dry or pasty.

                        1. re: Jim Leff

                          Don't know if your friend has tried this yet, but having had three local versions of foul Zaki is so far ahead of the other two and pretty close to your description other than being whole beans.

                          Thanks to this post, I never would have tried it at Zaki otherwise. The mention of a fresh version just got to me though I knew it was unlikely I'd find it.

                          The Zaki dish was so good, I wanted to see how others compared. If I had tried these other two first, I would not have tried a second.

                          Old Jerusalem is ii SF ... out of the area requested ... but this was for my own info.

                          Skip Old Jerusalem. If it was good in the past, it isn't now. It is bland, beany with jarring sour notes. Ick. The full report

                          In Marin, there is Falafel Hut which was decent. The problem was it was too salty. However, it didn't have that awful beaniness that Old Jerusalem had and under the salt was a nice blend of flavors. Could have been a batch gone wrong.

                          Anyway, these two burnt me out on foul. Send your friend to Zaki. I don't think he/she will be disappointed ... but then again my experience rests on the three I tried.

                          1. re: rworange

                            Weird, I just had the foul at Old Jerusalem last week. Eh? Interesting dip but not what I would call a good foul. And gasp! It had blackeyed peas in it. It didn't taste like foul (although mine was not sour like rworange's) but a friend of mine with extensive Mid East experience said that this was a Palenstinian version and that I am use to Yemeni versions so what do I know?

                            Now I really want to try Zaki...

                            1. re: chaddict

                              Thanks, rworange! And, chaddict, any time the word "Palestinian" comes up, always, always look for kunefeh. Palestinian kunefeh is a distinct thing, and one of the best desserts in the middle east. Even if the foul's lousy, the kunefeh might be great. or, if they don't make Palestinian kunefeh, they might know where to get some (e.g. i.e. some elderly lady in the nabe)

                              1. re: Jim Leff

                                Old Jerusalem's kunafa is great. They have a picture of it on their sign. Their mossabaha (warm variation on hummus) and baba are also great. I liked their ful but they do add a hell of a lot of lemon juice. I also liked the molukhia (Jew's mallow soup), but that's seriously not for everyone.


                                Old Jerusalem
                                2976 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94110

                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  Thanks for confirming they use lots of lemon at Old Jerusalem. After chaddict said she didn't notice a sour taste I was starting to get alarmed that maybe I ate a batch that had spoiled ... not that there would have been anything I could do about it since it has be quite a few days and I still live.

                                  I finally finished up the ful from San Rafeal's Falafel Hut today and added a fried egg to it which was nice.

                2. re: Melanie Wong

                  "Our Turkish options have improved in the last six years or so, and I'm hoping for an influx of Lebanese as the next wave."

                  Hmm, maybe that should be the next level of chowhounding. Not just being on the cutting edge of food culture re: new immigrant groups, but actually recruiting foreign nationals to move here en masse and cook for us. We could set up networks of safe houses where folks could crash until they find housing, rent out a number of hotel-style restaurant storefronts to be populated by the latest incoming group, and employ a stable of multilingual menu designers, immigration lawyers and sous chefs. I like it!

                  1. re: Jim Leff

                    Well, we've tried with a few visiting Tunisians, but nothing came to fruition. I haven't quite gotten to the level of learning Arabic so that I can interview mosque-goers. (g) I'd had hopes that the unrest would bring more Iraqis here, so far I've only heard of one resto opening.

                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      Re: Tunisians, my memory's failing....were you a fan of Algerian Aziza (the ad-hoc chef, no relation to the better-known and established Moroccan Aziza)? On recent trips to SF, I've called all the relevant cell phone numbers of her sons and admirers, but come up with nada.

                      1. re: Jim Leff

                        Not hip to that. And, I missed the short lifespan of the Algerian chef at the late Dunes Grill too.

                    2. re: Jim Leff

                      I've been suggesting that -- with varying degrees of seriousness -- vis a vis Oaxacan chefs for many years to no avail. Everyone who complains there's no good Mexican food in the Bay Area (i.e. Mexican food beyond Michoacan/Jalisco taqueria food) should put their money where their mouths are!

                      1. re: Ruth Lafler

                        I'm putting my time/money where my mouth is by learning to cook "it" for myself. A group of friends & I started "Grandma University" and we move on to a new food or cuisine as soon as we've mastered the previous one.

                        I'd never bother to open a restaurant - I've seen too many real-deal restaurants close for lack of business or dumb down their food for the majority customers who want Americanized cuisine or worst have all those "authenticity" whiners STILL complain. And I admit I'm one of them - when I recently had a "Texas Breakfast Taco" at a local restaurant, I wanted to barge into the kitchen and bitch-slap the cook. But then I reminded myself that I was a sucker for ordering it and that's why I learned how to make Austin-style breakfast tacos.

                        1. re: larochelle

                          I love the idea of "Grandma University". I once did a column for Brooklyn Bridge Magazine where I'd find a different grandma each issue (all different ethnicities), tell her story, and extract her recipes. It actually worked better than I expected.

                          Grandma University would be a great idea for a web site, if you ever get ambitious. Bring a camcorder, plus capture the emails.

                          1. re: Jim Leff

                            Yes, I had a session last week with my mom's oldest sister (90 years young) to teach me and my cousin one of my grandma's recipes. She had never taught her own daughters, until I asked. Simple recipe, but technique is everything and nobody sells jin dui like these with crisp walls that you can see through.

                            1. re: Jim Leff

                              We're actually expanded it to Friend University so anyone with a skill can share it. Nothing like a "Perfect Manhattan & 10 Cool Photoshop Tricks" on a Friday night to start your weekend with style. Everyone knows something worth sharing.

                              FYI - Slow Food just started hosting Grandmother Workshops in the Mission. The classes are small and they sell out immediately but they bring in serious experts.

                              1. re: larochelle

                                Oooooh, I have a great grandmother recipe for you.
                                My mother would take a big purple eggplant and char it directly on the gas burner, then peel off the char (or most of it), chop it with raw onion, olive oil and salt and pepper. Serve it on saltine crackers. Scrumptious.
                                Everyone who tries it loves it, but suggests things to add. All I ever did was subtract -- the olive oil. Sometimes I add garlic.

                3. Lots of local chefs do interesting things with fresh favas when they're in season (and they should be showing up very soon if they're not here already). They're a lot of work to prep so they tend to appear only in relatively fancy restaurants.

                  Foul moudammas is heavily seasoned. I don't think that approach would make sense with fresh favas, which are very delicate, similar to fresh peas.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                    The version at Zaki was not heavily seasoned. However, I forgot about the work with fresh fava beans so I think I'll just try the dried bean version.