Before the conflict in Syria, on any busy street in Aleppo on a Friday morning you would see a long queue in front of one small shop. Everyone in the line, including children, would be carrying a big bowl and would be waiting to take home fool, the traditional breakfast of choice for the people of Aleppo.
Fool is just very slow cooked fava beans flavoured with tahini, garlic and lemon juice but it means so much more to Aleppians than these simple ingredients would suggest. Fool is easy to make but people have always preferred to buy it at the fawwal’s (literally Fool maker) shop. Fava beans are best cooked over a low flame very slowly and most fawwal’s do it overnight until the beans are soft. The more beans that are cooked at once, the better they taste according to local lore, hence the preference for buying it from a fawwal.
The sauce of tahini, lemon and garlic is added and then once the fool is brought back home, people add olive oil and some spices. Aleppians like to eat fool with a large white onion – as sweet as an apple, as people from the city often say. Alongside, you should have a large cup of sweet tea.
Aleppians take pride in their cuisine and fool has a special place in it. The old city of Aleppo used to have the best Fawwals. In alJdeydeh for example, Haj Abdo alFawwal was the most famous place in town. People came from different cities to taste one of the best fool dishes in the world at his little authentic restaurant. Haj Abdo was always there himself to open his shop every day at dawn and would serve fool until five in the evening. Another famous place for fool was the old bazar (Souq alMdeeneh). There were lots of small fool shops in the Souq. Then fool restaurants started to invade the fancy areas and the newly built shopping malls in the city. Aleppo’s new neighborhoods started having Western looking restaurants that serve fool and other traditional dishes. The fool restaurants were busy most of the time.
When Aleppians started leaving the city, most of them headed to Turkey and they took their cuisine with them. Fool and falafel restaurants started appearing everywhere in cities like Gaziantep, Antakya, Adana, Mardin, Konya, and even Istanbul. Aleppians could not bear the idea of not having fool and Turks found it really convenient, cheap and above all very delicious.