Foul, Balila, Msabhah, and Fatteh

These classic legume dishes can be found at fawwals, which means “foul maker.” You’ll know one when you see the huge metal pots steaming away with their distinctive odors. Traditionally they’re eaten for breakfast and many fawwals close at midday.


Foul is a Levantine dish of fava beans (also available as a mix of fava beans and chickpeas), garlic, cumin, lemon, olive oil and salt. A more Lebanese take on the basic concept of foul is msabhah, which is made with chickpeas and has tahini in it.


Balila is a dish of chickpeas left whole, unlike hummus, seasoned with garlic, cumin and pine nuts.


All of these dishes are served with bread and olive oil as well as heaping mounds of radishes, raw onion, fresh mint, olives, tomatoes and cucumbers, and the joy of eating them is in the construction of each bite in a piece of bread. They make for an extraordinarily nutritious and intensely flavorful start to the day.


Fatteh is a mix of garlic and mint-infused yogurt on top of chickpeas seasoned with cinnamon, all on a bed of toasted flatbread and finished with toasted pine nuts and drizzled with melted butter or ghee. Fatteh is often augmented with meat.


There are, of course, myriad Levantine dishes made with lentils, as well, from salads and soups to rice stews and even just mixed with garlic and olive oil and eaten with bread.