The Italians call them fava beans, but throughout most of the English-speaking world, they are known as broad beans.
Occasionally, you'll see these pale-green beans, either shelled or in their lumpy pods at farmers markets and grocery stores, or on upper-end restaurant plates around town in the spring. Although these beans are popular in much of the world, beyond spring they are difficult to find in Charlotte.
Dried broad beans are a necessary ingredient for falafels. You can buy a falafel mix at most grocery stores, but making them from "scratch" is infinitely better.
In the Middle East, much controversy exists about this street food. In some places, falafels are made exclusively with chickpeas. In other places like Lebanon and Jordan, falafels are a combination of chickpeas and broad beans. In Egypt, falafels, known as ta'miyyeh, are made exclusively with broad beans. I lived in Egypt and prefer these.
Many of the Latino and Asian markets in town carry dried broad beans; in fact, some dried and salted broad beans can be found in the snack aisle of Latino grocery stores. But Sahara Market has several varieties of dried broad beans: small, medium and large; split and whole. The skinless, large, split broad bean is preferred for falafels. A two pound bag is $3.79.
While at Sahara, buy some fresh Lebanese tahini, and pickled whole turnips, too.
Where to find Dried Broad Beans: Sahara Market, 5107 Piper Station Drive. 704-541-1210.
Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: [email protected] or 704-522-8334, ext 136.