Graced with a tantalizing crunchy crust, and a vibrant green and creamy interior, Egyptian Ta’amia are iconic vegan fritters, bursting with nostalgic, and memorable flavors.
What is Ta’amia
In my Diasporan kitchen in Alexandria, Virginia, the edgy smell of sizzling Falafel, once they depart the hot oil, immediately transports me to the distinctivly convivial food scene of every Friday in the buzzing city of Cairo.
On Fridays, when the weekly prayer is wrapped up around noon, noticeable mobs of Egyptians leave the mosques and flock towards the ubiquitous Ta’amia joints, scattered at every corner of the city, to get the essentials for their brunch.
The essential lavish trio of Ta’amia, Foul Medames (stew of fava beans), and eggs is, hands down, the most typical and popular brunch menu on an Egyptian Friday’s table.
At the other end of Ta’amia afecionados’ long queues, there is always a small, or large, team of diligent workers who are braving the unmerciful heat of boisterous frying oil, and restlessly juggling tens of Ta’amia orders practically every minute.
In mesmerizing speed, the Ta’amia man shapes the soft, vividly green batter, throws it in the roaring oil, keeps stirring it with a sizable slotted spoon and once the fritters turn into a golden brown color, he swiftly picks them and lets them rest for seconds to discard their excess oil before they are handed to the next customer.
You can watch a lovely video that depicts that scene here.
A typical order of Ta’amia in Egypt could either come in Karatees (coned shaped newspaper) or Ta’amia sandwiches, which are hot mini pita bread, filled with Ta’amia spheres, drizzled with seasoned tahini sauce, and smothered under briny, fiery pickles and a mound of fresh Salata khadra (Egyptian rustic salad).
Beyond their nature as scrumptious vegan and iconic street food, Ta’amia powerfully conjures up the vivid spirit of Egypt, the streets distinctive aromas and life’s rhythm on Friday, the restful public day off.
Ta’amia versus Falafel
You say Falafel, I say Ta’amia! Actually, the difference between the two goes beyond the different Arabic dialects across the Arab world!
- The main difference that sets Egyptian Ta’amia and Levatine Falafel apart is that the first is strictly made of split fava beans, while the latter is a product of chickpeas. Needless to say, the difference doesn’t belittle either of them, as each is uniquely scrumptious and has its own personality.
- Another visible difference is that Egyptian Ta’amia relies on Korrat (leek) as a main ingredient for flavor, texture, and color. The leek in the Egyptian Ta’amia (with both its white and green parts) is finely chopped and purèed with the split fava beans in the food processor.
- Egyptian Ta’amia has a distinctive airy and fluffy interior that goes back to a simple, old technique. The aforementioned puffiness is not created by natural chemical leavening agents such as baking soda or baking powder. Yet, it is created by transferring the batter to a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or a dough hook attachment, to incorporate air. Watch the video below.
Make ahead & freezer friendly & zero food waste
- Avid meal planners will appreciate the recipe of Egyptian Ta’amia, as they can easily make it a couple of months ahead, and freeze it. That said, Ta’amia gurus advise against salting the Ta’amia before freezing. I am still trying to figure out the reason for this advice. If you happen to know it, please post it in the comments below.
- Ta’amia is a great way to incorporate the piles of parsley and cilantro that are on the edge of wilting in the fridge. So in some ways, making Ta’amia is a good way to avoid waste.
Best Ta’amia place in Egypt
My all-time favorite place for exquisite Egyptian Ta’amia is “Mohamed Ahmed”.
Mohamed Ahmed is a hole in a wall Ta’amia and Foul Medames (stewed fava beans) place, located in Alexandria, Egypt. Established in 1957, this gem off the beaten path bares the name of its founder and serves its signature sandwiches to an army of clients day in and day out.
Its signature Ta’amia sandwiches are perfection at its best. Its warm pita bread is generously lined with zesty tahini paste, piled high with pickles, lettuce cucumber, juicy tomatoes, and stuffed with tantalizing Ta’amia patties.
It has been more than 20 years since I made it to that Ta’amia mecca. That said, its Ta’amia’s lingering taste still dents my memory to this day.
A few years ago, Mohamed Ahmed received a historic shout out by Claudia Rodin, The octogenarian, Jewish-Egyptian cookbook author, and anthropologist.
Upon her recommendation, Mohamed Ahmed was featured in the flagship British newspaper, The Guardian. The humble Ta’amia place, tucked in one of Alexandria, Egypt allies, made news in an article titled: “The world’s best falafel recipe comes from Egypt”.
How to make epic Ta’amia
ّThe definition of epic Ta’amia is a crunchy exterior belying an airy, puffy, and creamy interior that is vibrant green. The right Ta’amia offers the right balance of heat, and salt. Follow these steps below to a T, and you will end up with the best Ta’amia experience. Watch the step by step video here.
1. Soak the split fava beans
One day ahead, soak the split fava beans in cold water to soften overnight. This step is crucial. The split fava beans is soft enough, when you can effortlessly crush with two fingers
Transfer the soaked fava beans to a fine mesh sieve, rinse it well under running tap water. and then place the sieve over a bowl and let the fava beans discard any excess water.
2. Make the batter
Add the split fava beans to the container of food processor and run the machine until the fava beans turn into a fine smooth paste. Add the chopped leek, spring onions, fresh garlic, the leaves of cilantro, parsley, and dill.
Keep processing the batter until all the ingredients are incorporated. In case it is needed, add one spoonful of water at a time to reach a fine, soft consistency. The batter should be sticky and soft.
Please note that the quantity of aromatic greens may change depending on its potency, so keep adding more greens until the batter turns into a vivid green, with a pistachio shade.
3. Whip up the batter
To achieve the puffy, fluffy interior of Egyptian Ta’amia, transfer it to a mixer and run it on medium speed for no longer than 5 minutes, or until it reaches the consistency of whipped cream. Keep it in the fridge until you are ready to fry it.
If you plan to freeze it, I suggest that you freeze after the previous step, and then whip it up in a stand mixer, or a hand mixer, after you defrost it and before frying.
4. Shape the Ta’amia
Bring your Falafel batter to room temperature before you shape it. Dampen your hands with water as the batter is so soft and sticky. Shape the Ta’amia sphere to the size you want, with a thickness that doesn’t exceed 1/2 inch.
For an extra playful texture and a pleasant nutty note, sprinkle some sesame on the surface of the raw Ta’amia. However, this step is totally optional.
Just don’t make them too thick or they will take longer in the hot oil to cook properly, as the interior will remain raw and the crust will risk burning.
5. Fry the Ta’amia Patties
Use a frying pan, and preferably use canola oil for frying. It is my go-to frying oil. Heat the oil on medium heat until it reaches 350°F to 375 °F.
If you don’t have a food thermometer, try this trick: drop 1/4 teaspoon of bread crumbs, if the bread crumbs rise to the surface of the oil immediately, that means the oil is ready.
Fry the Ta’amia until it turns into a perfect golden brown. Remove it immediately when it reaches the desired color and let it rest on absorbent paper to discard any excess oil.
6. Serve Ta’amia
Ta’amia is best savored warm, as both its flavor and texture fade out pretty quickly when Ta’amia comes to room temperature. You can serve Ta’amia on a board of warm pita bread, assortment of pickles, tahini sauce, or you can stuff all the aforementioned delicacies into a warm pita bread and savor it with an Egyptian mint tea.
Ta’amia is a national pride
Being one of Egypt’s most iconic heritage recipes, we, Egyptians, have to fiercely protect it against property theft. If we don’t talk enough about it and properly introduce it to the world, we might wake up one day, to unpleasant news: simply another country could easily claim its property rights.
This type of cultural theft, unfortunately, is becoming normalized. It previosily happened to countries in the Levant and could happen times again.
Check out more Egyptian vegan recipes
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Egyptian Ta’amia: الطعمية المصرية
Makes 25 to 30 small Falafel patties
Egyptian Ta’amia (vegan fried fritters)
- Food processor
- Stand mixer or a hand mixer
- Frying pan
- Slotted spoon or long tongs
- Paper towels
For the Ta’amia batter
- 500 grams split fava beans
- 2 leeks, chopped (including white and green parts)
- 2-3 cups mixed parsley, cilantro, and dill leaves, stems removed, (see notes)
- 4-5 spring onions (see notes)
- 1 hot green pepper, optional
- 5 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1-3 tablespoons of water, (see notes)
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1-2 teaspoons harissa paste, (optional)
- 1 teaspoon baking powder, optional (see notes)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon of coarsely crushed coriander seeds (optional)
- 3 tablespoons sesame, for the crust, optional
- Warm pita bread or Egyptian Aish Baladi
- Tahini sauce
- Assortment of pickles
- Canola or grape seeds oil for frying
- Prep the split fava beans: Soak the split fava beans in cold water for at least 8 hours or overnight. After soaking time is over, the fava beans should be soft enough to effortlessly crush it with two fingers. Transfer the soaked fava beans to a fine mesh sieve, rinse it well under running tap water. Then place the sieve over a bowl and let the split fava beans discard any excess water.
- Make the Ta’amia batter: Add the split fava beans to the container of a large food processor and run the machine until the split fava beans turn into a fine smooth paste. Add the chopped leek, spring onions, fresh garlic, the leaves of cilantro, parsley and dill and spices. Keep processing the batter until all the ingredients are incorporated. In case it is needed, add one spoonful of water at a time, to reach a fine, soft consistency. The final Ta’amia batter should be sticky, smooth fine paste. The quantity of aromatic greens may change depending on its potency. We aim at a batter that is vividly green, with a pistachio shade. Taste the batter and adjust the seasoning.
- Incorporate air into the Ta’amia: traditionally, Egyptians incorporate air into Ta’amia by using a stand mixer or a hand mixer on medium speed for 3-5 minutes. You can skip that step and add baking powder instead as indicated in the ingredients.
- Shape the Ta’amia patties. Shape the Ta’amia patties in the size you want, with a thickness that doesn’t exceed 1/2 inch. If you make them too thick, you run the risk of having a raw interior and an over cooked, burnt crust. Before yoru shape the Ta’amia, it is recommended to dip your finger in oil or water so you can handle the sticky ta’amia batter.
- Fry the Ta’amia. Heat the oil to 350° F. Carefully, drop the Ta’amia in the hot oil. Don’t cram the frying pan. Remove the Ta’amia from the oil when it is puffy and all golden. Transfer the fried Ta’amia to a tray lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Serve: The Ta’amia is always served hot along with French fries, warm pita bread, tahini sauce, and an assortment of pickles.
- Only use the leaves of the parsley, cilantro, and dill and avoid the stalks altogether as they contain more water than the leaves, which can water down the Ta’amia batter and ruin its texture.
- Never use regular onions in the Ta’amia as it is so watery, which can damage the Ta’amia batter and make it fall apart in the hot oil.
- It is safe to taste the Ta’amia dough before frying it to adjust the seasoning.
- Never cram the frying pan with many Ta’amia balls.
- If you make a big batch, you can freeze the Ta’amia batter in a ziplock and keep it in the freezer for up to three months. Never add salt or baking powder before freezing the Ta’amia.