Delicious and Unique Egyptian Foods

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Not a lot of people know that Egypt is not only famous for its ancient monuments, culture and revolution, but it is also famous for its great food. Egyptian food is a mixture of all the different civilizations that came to Egypt in the history of its existence. Nowhere in the world will you be able to taste so many cultures in one plate.

Egyptian cuisine is not very fancy; it is not as elaborate as French or Italian cuisine and not as heavy as some of the food in the Arabian Gulf, it also doesn’t rely on a massive amount of spices. It is very simple, and this simplicity is what makes it very tasty.

A lot of the food on the menu relies heavily on vegetables and legumes rather than meats, same as it has been for millennia, mainly because veggies are much cheaper than meat. However, you will find that a lot of items on the list below are very much of the meat variety, after all, a balanced diet of meat and vegetables does wonders for the body.

Below is a list of the most delicious and popular dishes served up in Egypt today.

Kushari

Considered to be the Egyptian national dish, it consists of pasta and tomato sauce, among other items, including rice, lentils, caramelized onions, garlic and chickpeas. Having four sources of carbohydrates has made it the most popular lunch item in most common food outlets in Egypt for over 100 years. Interestingly enough, Kushari’s origins are not Egyptian at all, in fact it was a dish brought in by the British army in Egypt in the 19th century: the pasta was imported from Italy, the tomatoes are from Latin America and the rice from Asia, however the idea to mix them all together in one extremely delicious and vegetarian dish was conceived in Egypt.

Kabab wa kofta (Grilled meats)

Succulant grilled meat cubes and seekh kebab, typically made out of veal or lamb, they are usually served with bread (baladi) and an assortment of green salads and dips, mostly tahini, baba ghanoush, and tzatziki. They are grilled over charcoal and they are a must for any meat lover visiting Egypt.

Shawerma

While shawerma is not originally a native Egyptian dish, it became so due to Egypt being part of the Ottoman Empire. That said, the best shawerma in Egypt will traditionally be available at Syrian owned sandwich parlours.

Halawa

Halawa is a middle-eastern food common across all countries in the Mediterranean. Halawa is made from sesame paste and is available in all shapes and forms: blocks, hair Halawa, energy bars and spreads. It is sometimes infused with other types of food to add to its flavor, these include: pistachios, pine nuts and almonds. It is a common staple food among Egyptians and it is eaten as a snack or for breakfast and dinner. Halawa can be used as a main ingredient in many other dishes, among those is the Sakalans, which is mixture of Halawa, honey and whipped cream. Interestingly, Halawa is one of the few foods that can tolerate the hot Egyptian weather without going bad, and it doesn’t need any special storage conditions.

Hawawshi (Egyptian meat pie)

Spiced ground beef cooked in a whole loaf of baladi bread, either in a rotisserie oven or baked in a regular oven.

Konafah

Konafah is an Egyptian sweet made of a very thin noodle-like pastry. The origins of Konafah are very mysterious, its presence has been recorded in Arab medieval cookbooks in both Egypt and the Levant and Turkey, but its exact origins have always been unknown. Konafah is made by drizzling long rows of the thin noodles in their liquid state on a hot plate until they become dry and more rigid. The now-rigid noodles are then mixed with butter or oil and wrapped around a filling made out of nuts, whipped cream or both. It is baked and presented with a fruit syrup on top.

Gibna Domiati

Gibna Domiati is a white soft cheese made in the city of Damietta, in the north of Egypt. It is typically made from buffalo milk but sometimes cow milk is added to the mixture as well. It is the most common cheese found in Egypt and is incorporated into a lot of dishes, such as sambousak (fried thin pastry stuffed with cheese) or mesh (a tomato and cheese dip). Gibna Domiati is aged for a period of 1-3 years in large tin cans, before being eaten. Most Egyptian families take pride in the number of cans they have stored and for how long. In fact, it is said that the more the cheese is aged, the more delicious it becomes.

Fattah

If you are familiar with Biryani, then this should be easy. It is the same concept: bread, meat, and rice layered one on top of the other with a vinegar and tomato sauce. The bread is, again, baladi bread, and the meat used is mostly beef, veal, or lamb.

Dukkah

Dukkah is an Egyptian food commonly used as a dip and eaten along with Egyptian flatbread or raw vegetables, such as tomatoes or cucumber, as an hors d’oeuvre or side dish. It consists of a mixture of herbs, nuts and spices such as mint, salt, sesame, coriander and cumin. Dukkah is usually prepared at home and each family has a different twist to the recipe, but it is also sold at spice vendors in small paper cones. The name “Dukkah” is derived from the Arabic word “to pound” referring to how all the spices are pounded together to prepare the dish. Outside of Egypt, the dish is rarely known but it has found some popularity in Australia.

Baladi Bread

Baladi bread is probably the one food item that Egyptians cannot do without, as a matter of fact, in the 70s the government moved to stop subsidizing the bread and the result were riots that spanned the country and Cairo almost got burned to the ground. The government reinstated the subsidy almost immediately. The bread is flat bread made of whole wheat and bran and traditionally baked in a wood burning oven, now in a gas burning oven. When fresh out of the oven, it is so tasty that it can be eaten whole on its own, and with other foods, it gives them a whole new dimension.

Ful Medames

One of the common staple foods in Egypt, it consists of lava beans served with oil, garlic and lemon juice. Ful Medames can be traced to Pharaonic roots, and quantities have been found in the Twelfth dynasty. The word “Medames” is Coptic for “buried” which refers to the way it was initially cooked: in a pot buried in hot coal or sand. Ful Medames can be served with many embellishments such as butter, tomato sauce, tahini, fried or boiled eggs and pastrami. However, the most traditional method is to eat it plain and salted in an Egyptian bread bun. Nowadays, Ful Medames is exported to many Middle Eastern countries such as Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.

Fatta

Considered a Nubian dish, fatta is usually prepared for festivities such as a woman’s first birth, and both Christian and Muslim holiday celebrations. It consists of layers of rice and fried bread, covered in a garlic and vinegar meat soup. Large chunks of stewed beef and deep-fried poached eggs are usually served along with the rice and bread base. As you can presume, Fatta is a really fattening dish, with an extremely high calorific value; it is rarely eaten during the year, except after a major religious fast such as the 50 days before Easter for Coptic Christians, or the month of Ramadan before Eid-Al-Futr.

Mulukhiya

Mulukhiya is made from the leaves of jute and corchorus plants that grow in east and north Africa. In Egypt, Mulukhiya is prepared by chopping the leaves with garlic and coriander and cooking it in an animal stock such as chicken, beef or rabbit, and served with Egyptian bread or rice. Interestingly, different cities in Egypt prepare it in different ways, for example fish or shrimp are used as bases for the broth in coastal cities such as Alexandria and Port Said. During the late Tenth century, the dish was banned by the Fatimid Caliph Al Hakim Bi-Amr Allah, while the ban was lifted, religious sects such as the Druze still refuse to eat the dish in respect for the late Caliph.

Besarah

Besarah has been known since Pharaonic times and the ancient Egyptians, this vegetarian dish is a celebration of herbs and spices. Made with parsley, dill, leek, crushed fava beans, onions, green bell pepper or hot chilli pepper, fresh green coriander, and spices (dry coriander, dry mulukhiyah, cumin, salt and pepper). When cooked it turns into a green, creamy paste-like dip. Best eaten with baladi bread.

Sources: Al Rahalah, Listverse

 

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September 14, 2018 |

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