Read Cairo Visit Part 1 Here
Egypt has an ample variety of food and there are a lot of street restaurants to enjoy from.
I was strolling through the streets of Cairo downtown looking for a local food shop to have lunch. There were plenty of them but I was looking for a bit traditional one. Walking down the street I eventually settled on one. It was good. I finished the food and walked away (only after paying of course!). Same old scenario repeated itself. You search for long for something good, you make a choice and then the very moment something better appears, only to leave you regretting, damn why didn’t I wait a bit more. Walked just few steps down the road & I smelled fish roasting nearby. There was a fresh fish shop where they were BBQing the fish. You choose the raw piece and they will grill it then & there.
Al Tahrir Kushari:
My Egyptian friend invited me to try the traditional Egyptian food Kushaari at the most famous shop “Kushari al Tahrir”. This food is made of pasta, noodles, beans, lentils, rice &roasted onions. All mixed in a bowl & boiling spicy tomato sauce poured on top. There were two bottles on the table, one with vinegar and the other one with a mixture of chillies, oil and spices. Resting on table the bottle contents will settle into layers, I counted five. You are supposed to put your thumb on the open bottle head and shake it before use. My friend poured a lot of both into my plate, “you are Pakistani, you can manage”. Only I, internal organs & Allah knows how I managed. But it was delicious! We cooled ourselves with kheer (rice & milk pudding). Middle East has only few vegetarian dishes to offer, and this is one of them. I went back to the same shop again but without him, I was scared of chillies!
Beans & Lentils by Pharoahs and Meat by Muslims:
Egyptians diet contains a lot meat and beans (soya, lentil, chickpeas, etc). In fact there are many beans dishes. Egyptians used beans for 1000’s of years as their main source of protein, until Muslims introduced them to meat! Now my Egyptian friend was complaining why we Pakistani don’t eat more meat even though it quite cheap in Pakistan (compared to Egypt).
I found the Egyptian Doner Kebab (Shawrma) the best ever, especially the beef one. Usually shawarma is made with minced meat. But Egyptians make it with layers of meat, similar to chicken shawarma. The meat is thinly sliced from the cone as it cooks, then slow cooked in the tray with juices and raw tomatoes. It is then stuffed in a pitta or soft bun and served with turshi (vinegar pickle). I have never tasted better shawarma than this.
Turshi is commonly eaten in Middle East. This is more so for Jordanians and Egyptians. It basically is a pickle of carrots, mooli, cucumber and chillies in vinegar; quite tasty & sour. Men eating so much of sour food was a bit of strange for me as it is associated with women in subcontinent culture!
There were shops of fresh juice of carrot, orange and sugar cane on every street & and every corner. The juice was cheap & refreshing in hot weather. I enjoyed my favourite carrot & orange mix.
Ta’amiyya is the Eqyptian version of Falafel, but made with fava beans. It is ground fava beans mixed with spices and then fried. It is then put into a pita with some salad and tahina sauce. Sometimes potato chips are thrown in to. It is quire heavy food.
Foul is the cheapest of cheap foods. It comes in different forms, but it is essentially beans cooked, then mashed up into a paste and mixed with various oils and spices, then put into a pita.
This delicious round Roti/chapatti bread ‘Eeish Baladi’ is sold everywhere in Cairo. You will see sellers sitting on floor with breads spread on a low cart.
Three types of milk pudding are commonly served after food, flour& rice (kheer), and bread (Umm Ali). All were tasty but less sweet compared to Turkish ones. Baklawa was also available but less frequently.
Qahva, Chai & Sheesha:
Needles to say that Egyptians love qahva, chai (tea) and sheesha.