You Can't Miss Out on These When You're In Cairo

By Assia Hamdi | 16, Jan, 2020
You Can't Miss Out on These When You're In Cairo

Egyptian food is completely delicious, mouth-watering and unforgivingly lush, but sadly it is also underrated. It's hard to find Egyptian restaurants abroad when you have other Middle-eastern food competitors like Lebanon, Morocco, and even Syria.

However, this gives Egyptian food an advantage, with no expectations, these dishes will blow your mind with the unusual and delicious combinations, fresh flavors and satisfying ingredients.

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Starters or Fast Food

1. Foul

Image Credit: One Arab Vegan; The Foul is a dish made for all, regardless of their social status, thanks to how nutritious it is. 

Foul or also known as Fava Beans – The Egyptians are known for their love for Foul in the Middle East. Foul Medames are blended into a paste, with cumin, oil, and salt. You can eat it as a side dish with bread as a starter or you can also find them in sandwiches. You can't get bored with this classic. There are also other variations like the Foul Iskandarani with salad toppings, Foul Medames, Garlic Foul, Chili Foul, and the list goes on.

2. Koshari

Image Credit: The Mediterranean Dish; The Koshari may not be the healthiest meal out there, but it really is a meal unique to the Egyptian culture.

If you want to eat fast food with no fuss but plenty of flavors, Koshari is the delight of Egypt that can never disappoint. With a base of buttery macaroni (a type of pasta) soft rice, flavored lentils, a tangy salsa sauce, hearty chickpeas and caramelized onions (Now, this is the best bit). You have a hearty dish that will keep you full and satisfied (And did I mention how sleepy you'll get after this heavy meal? You have no idea).

3. Tamia Falafel and Tahini

Image Credit: Pille-Riin Priske; The Falafel tastes amazing when it's still warm and crisp. Don't forget to dip it in the Tahini for an extra tangy taste. 

Honestly, this is the poor man and a rich man's food. In the West, a sandwich of this type costs up to $10, in Egypt it won't cost you more than 50 cents.
This sandwich is best bought in 2,3,4 or more, One is not enough. You get a choice of a mini thin baguette or little pouch of pitta bread, filled with Tahini, mixed salad (fresh tomato, onions, cucumber, salad, and herbs), sometimes Hummus and finally the warm falafels that are squashed to make sure every mouthful explodes with flavor.

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Note: The Egyptian falafel uses the famous Foul Medames, Fava Beans, Chickpeas, a mixture of spices (varIant to each individual) and with no doubt parsley, coriander, and green herbs to give its signature color.

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Main Dishes

1. Mahshi

Image Credit: Vedat Zorluer; Though you'll find this dish relatively common in the region, the Mahshi is still a must-try in Cairo where different cities will have different renditions of the Mahshi or the Dolma.

This dish has different names as is also known as Dolma in Turkey. Consisting of many variants including Courgette, vine leaves, peppers, cabbage leaves. They are often stuffed with spiced rice but you can also find minced meat ones and even rarely minced chicken. You can never be bored and each home or restaurant adds their twists to the dish, so it's difficult to not like this dish. A classic and it would be a shame to miss out!

2. Pigeon and Molokhia

This one is not for the light-hearted. If you are a meat lover and want to try one of Egypt's signature meat dishes, then pigeon is the way to go. Egyptians love this dish paired with a good 3ish (bread also meaning life) and Molokhia stew made with the plant of Corchorus. The texture of this stew is quite slimy but it takes some getting used to. Dating from Ancient Egypt, you can be transported back to Egyptian Pharaohs by eating this dish.

3. Macaroni Bechamel

Image Credit: Nawal Escape; This dish can be too dairy-heavy so pair this dish with the Egyptian Chamomile Tea or any type of tea to ease the tummy. 

Egyptians claim to be the inventor of this dish, but pasta is Italian and Bechamel is French. However, the compilation of this dish is very Egyptian. Pasta is layered on top of each other into a block and covered with creamy Bechamel, minced meat, a bit of tomato sauce and even more Bechamel. It's comfort food for most and can be found in every restaurant.

4. Sujuk and Kibbeh

Image Credit: Renata C. F. Correa RenataCorreaMG; The Kibbeh can be a little daunting, but you know what? Just go for it!

A meat feast for meat lovers. Sujuk is the classic spicy sausage which you can find alone, with your classic sides of rice or chips, on pizzas, in sandwiches, on Fateera and the list goes on. As for Kibbeh, a definite either love it or hate it situation, is liver fried with garlic and onions. The flavor isn't overpowering but the texture is not for the light-hearted.

5. Fateera

My personal favorite, it's an Egyptian pizza with a buttery fine pastry base. Its endless layers of pastry goodness can be eaten sweet or salty. Either filled with delightful cream (Ashta), nuts or chocolate, drenched in syrup. This tempting pie can hardly be shared. For those who prefer savory or want a meal you can have any of your favorite pizza toppings, meat, chicken, veg and cheeses, instead, they are hidden between the layers.

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Dessert

1.Kunefe

The joy you feel when you pull the Kunefe away and see the strings of cheese is extra rewarding. Though the syrup may be too sweet, the cream surrounding the dessert creates a good balance.

For those with a sweet tooth, Kunefe although Palestinian in origin, can be found all over Egypt. Kunefe is vermicelli drenched in a caramel syrup sauce with a surprise center of stringy cheese that absorbs the outside flavor. The original Kunefe is topped with crushed pistachios and more of the delicious sticky syrup. Modern variants include peach and icecream, Nutella, white chocolate and many more. When you're in the middle east, it's essential to try the original then experiment with the new twists.

2. Umm Ali

Image Credit: Dinner With Julie; The Umm Ali is a dessert meant to be shared with a group of friends or families which resonates well with the middle eastern culture. 

Umm Ali translates as Ali's mother, but don't worry this is a completely vegetarian dessert. No mothers were harmed in the making of this dessert.

The story goes that the Wife of an Ayyubid leader (a royal caliphate from Egypt) would make this dish, especially for her husband. There are many variations of this dessert but it can be difficult to find the right one due to its supreme delicacy. It is a layered pudding dessert with fine pastry layers, a sort of milk pudding, raisins, pistachios, any kind of nuts, cinnamon and finally roasted till a golden.

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There you have it, 10 Egyptian dishes to try and the variants and other dishes will introduce to a whole new world of food, even Aladdin couldn’t have on his magic carpet ride.

Currently a History and Arabic student with a huge ambition and passion for travelling. Inshallah, my hope is to see the beautiful world God has created and share the beauty with you lovely readers.