It’s time to decide on another African nation for one of the final thirty-two places in The World Cup of Food. This week, our match pits the cuisines of Egypt and Ethiopia against each other. Which do we think is better?
Ful medames (sometimes transliterated as fool mudammas, recipe follows) is a staple dish of mashed fava beans seasoned with cumin, lemon juice, and olive oil and served with a variety of garnishes, and is enjoyed throughout the Middle East and northeast Africa with origins in either Egypt or Sudan. Evidence of the dish’s history can be found dating as far back as Twelfth Dynasty of Egypt, when pharaohs were buried in their tombs with a supply of the beans to provide fuel for the afterlife.
Just about every matchup we create here on The World Cup of Food has been interesting and exciting for us, teaching us things about the cuisines and cultures of the world that we probably would never have stumbled upon on our own. In no region is this more true than in Africa. We are coming to realize that we enjoy African food a great deal, and choosing African nations for elimination has been a tough process. The case of Egypt versus South Africa is no exception. On the one hand, there is probably no greater melting pot cuisine on the continent than that of South Africa, where influences from what seems like about fifty different cultures have melded together to form what we see today on the South African table. Egypt, on the other hand, with its early advances in agriculture and technology, has laid much of the groundwork in ancient times for the modern cuisines of the Middle East and North Africa.
Every great falafel needs a great sauce. Tahine is a thin sauce made from tahini, water, and a little oil that is drizzled on a pita with falafel or a variety of meat fillings.
Egypt has one of the longest recorded histories of any culture on our planet, and as a result much is known about the evolution over time of its cuisine. Food has always played a paramount role in Egyptian life. Crops grown in the fertile Nile Valley help ancient Egypt become the famous empire we all know. Such a narrow band of available arable land meant that grazing lands for livestock were hard to come by, and as a result much of the Egyptian diet is vegetarian, based on legumes, breads, and vegetables, with the exception of a few fish and game dishes. Egypt’s national dish, ful medames, is an almost perfect representation of the cuisine: fava beans stewed and mashed with onions served with vegetables and greens.