We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

More answers: Egyptian food

Libby asked

I know that you’ve been getting lots of good Ethiopian food, but have you tried much Egyptian food yet? What’s it like? Also, have you seen Shepherd’s Hotel? (It’s an important place in many of the Amelia Peabody books, so I’d love to know what it looks like!)

First, the easy one: nope, no Shepherd’s Hotel. I’ll be on the lookout. I still have yet to read the Amelia Peabody mysteries myself.

Now, onto Egyptian food: I love kushari, though I stopped eating it so much when I was hit with the mummy tummy. Mr. Four and the boys love kufta, which is something like a hamburger sausage, though apparently not spiced. It comes by itself or in a sub-like bread. I really like fuul, a smushed bean dish that tastes a little bit like black bean hummus; fuul on bread is the typical Egyptian breakfast.

Our ventures into Egyptian food pretty much stopped when Ramadan started. Most Egyptian restaurants are closed during the day, and at night they have iftar food. Iftars seem to feature lots of appetizers like chicken, kufta, a mild hummus-like dish, and bread. The entree was brown rice, grilled chicken, and grilled beef. The desserts are pretty simple: wheat and lots of sugar. Too sweet for me–which I never before realized was a possibility.

Some Egyptian cuisine borrows from Lebanese and Greek foods (souvlaki and baba ghanoush). I’ve also had some really good simple but savory bean dishes at the work cafeteria. And of course there are shish kebabs. You also see a lot of lamb but no pork (because of Muslim restrictions). Also common are shwarmas, sandwiches with shaved meat.

The bread here is tasty. Yogurt is ubiquitous, and I’ve really enjoyed some yogurt smoothies with pomegranate and mango. Guava is another option. Yum.

Mango is everywhere. A common drink is lemonade with mint, which is delicious.

Ramadan ends in about ten days, and then I’ll be out and about more for lunch and hope to try some more.

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3 October 2007 - Posted by | food

2 Comments

  1. The Sheapherd’s Hotel that is in Cairo now is on the Corniche downtown just across the road from the Semiramis, but it isn’t the same as the old one. That one was burned down in a riot against the British in the 50’s. The new one isn’t really worth the visit. The Peabody mysteries are brilliant and are actually written by an Egyptologist who gets her geography and people right. When you want to do a good sampling of Egyptian food, I’d recommend Abou el Sid in either Zamalek near Diwan just off of 26th of July St or on Road 7 in Maadi. They also have a branch at City Stars and one in Sharm in Naama Bay. This is a family restaurant that serves some of the best Egyptian food around. Felfela is also good and rather cheaper. They have a branch near the Mena House Oberoi and another downtown. There are quite a few others. The nice thing about these restaurants is that you can go there with small children and relax because the Felfela’s and the Maadi Abou el Sid have gardens.
    Be careful buying food from small shops or stands. Only time I’ve ever had food poisoning has been from places like that and I believe it was the oil that had simply been overused until it went rancid. The felafel tasted great though. There’s a great place in the Maadi Grand Mall called Arzak that makes terrific Egyptian fast food and is very safe.
    You can make koshari at home very easily. Cook some brown lentils until they are done and put them in a plastic box. Likewise a bit of white rice and some pasta. Chickpeas are easier if you just open a can. Fry some onion in oil until it’s brown. There is a tomato sauce that you can make up by tossing tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt and pepper and a bit of cumin in a blender and then simmering it until it’s the right thickness for you. The garlic sauce is just vinegar cut with an equal amount of water with crushed garlic and cumin. Each one of the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time and stored in tupperware or the local equivalent in the fridge and when you want to make yourself a bowl full, you just put it together in a dish in the quantities that you happen to like, add the tomato and/or garlic sauce and onions and nuke it. When I had kids at home we usually had koshari ingredients in the fridge because everyone loved it and they each liked a different combination of ingredients and a different spicing regimen. Egyptian fast food. Great stuff.

    Comment by Maryanne Stroud Gabbani | 4 October 2007

  2. Whoa, I came to the comments to thank you for answering my question, but got a lot more information from Maryanne–thanks to both of you for all of it!

    I love reading about your experiences! 🙂

    Comment by Libby | 4 October 2007


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