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On Your Mark, Get Set: The Garam Masala That Went to Egypt

2011 April 26

By Chitra Agrawal

Garam-Masala-Ground-Cumin-Coriander-Powder-Kashmiri-MirchWhen I first saw the fava bean greens in Brianna’s recipe, my mind wandered to a visit I had made to Egypt six years back to visit my friend Clare.  Clare and I had gone to Berkeley together and then lived together in Los Angeles.  She had decided to move back to where she grew up in Cairo to work on her Arabic and art, and soon after, I bought a ticket to visit her.  I had always been fascinated by Egypt from the stories she told and really wanted to see the city and the country through her eyes – and of course eat what locals eat.

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While in Cairo, I ate falafel for breakfast for the first time, which I learned is actually the norm, and I had my first taste of ful mudammas, which is made from mashed fava beans and usually served with pita and a poached egg on top. Clare’s stepfather prepared this dish for me and I still remember that meal fondly.   I liked it so much that Clare’s mom actually gave me a traditional ful pot that you cook the fava beans in.

Although, I was reminded of delicious ful mudammas from Brianna’s recipe, I wanted to make sure that the main ingredient in my recipe was farm fresh, but unfortunately, ful mudammas is usually made from dried or canned fava beans.  I also toyed with the idea of using fresh fava, but here in NY, farmer’s markets are still pretty scant on that front.  The poached egg from the dish though gave me another idea – shakshuka!  Shakshuka is another Egyptian dish made with poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce.  Sadly, my CSA has not begun yet, but I will be visiting the farmer’s market for these eggs.

I had the idea of creating a version of shakshuka inspired by Indian cuisine, and the curry spices in Brianna’s recipe were perfect in facilitating this.  Usually I make egg curry with hard boiled eggs but this time I am going to attempt to poach the eggs in the curry sauce.  Luckily, I still have some garam masala that I made in India with my great aunt and a package of fresh chili powder from the region.  As most of the other Indian spices in this recipe will be difficult to find locally, I will be on the hunt for organic spices. Wish me luck!


Chitra Agrawal writes The ABCD’s of Cooking, a cooking blog devoted to vegetarian Indian-inspired recipes.

  • Stephanie

    beautiful photos! I look forward to seeing your recipe. I first had ful mudammas at the Middle East Restaurant and Nightclub in Cambridge ( I hadn’t even heard of the food before, but fell in love and searched online for recipes when we got home. It is a regular meal in our house now.

  • Chitra

    thank you! i agree – once you’ve have ful mudammas, i don’t think you can forget it:)

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