Eat like an Egyptian
These last two weeks have seen this food junkie traipsing through the temples and tombs of Upper and Lower Egypt. And even though we kept up a hectic and tightly-packed schedule in order to cram thousands of year of Pharaonic history into our brains, Rudy and I still managed to find a way to cram our mouths with some of their tasty and timeless street fare.
Feasting on Falafels (aka Ta’ miyya)
Wow. I never realized what a falafel was until I went to Egypt. Crisp, mealy, and still steaming from the deep fryer, these little nuggets of goodness were one of my favourite things to have for breakfast, dinner, as a snack— well, basically anytime. Unlike most standard falafels made from chickpeas, falafels in Egypt are made from fava beans and mixed with scallions, green onion and spices for a delightful taste experience which has spoiled me from eating all other falafels until the hereafter. Sometimes their tops are crusted with a combination of sesame and coriander seeds; and even on plain flatbread with no accompaniment, they are amazing. In fact, they are the perfect complete meal. Coptic Christians and Muslims alike eat this treat while fasting for religious purposes.
Krazy for Koshari
I first heard about Koshari while watching Anothony Boudain’s adventures in Egypt on “No Reservations.” After seeing him scarf down this street food, it sounded so unique that I simply had to try it. What is Koshari? It is a bizarrely layered combination of starches and flavours that somehow mesh very well. Basically, I like to think of it as spaghetti, Egyptian style. The Koshari vendor prepares his ingredients in advance and quickly layers them into the bowls as the orders are placed. He first begins with a base of rice to which he adds brown lentils. Chickpeas are placed next, then a layer of macaroni, yet another layer of spaghetti noodles, and a healthy dose of spicy, tangy, tomato sauce. The best part is the crisply fried garlic and onions that adorn the top. As you dig into that bowl of Koshari, you taste sweet (carmelized garlic and onion), sour (that savoury tomato sauce) and salty (the lentils and the chickpeas).
Koshari can be found on street corners all over the country, and for good reason: it is cheap, hearty and delicious. However, Bourdain mentions a particular place where you can find the best Koshari in town. After making a few inquiries of my own in Cairo, most locals concurred. Abo Tarek is one of the most beloved local haunts to find this Egyptian meal. Unfortunately, the narrow and crowded streets surrounding the restaurant mean that parking a tour bus beside this joint would have been impossible. So, our very accommodating guide went out of his way to oblige us with a couple of bags of take out. Shukrun Mikael!