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Egypt's new foodie trend blends East and West: PHOTOS

A taste of Egypt's new culinary movement and what it means for the ever-changing revolutionary nation

Zooba, a new 'balady chic' restaurant for Cairo's well-to-do (Nancy Salem).

CAIRO, EGYPT – The latest trend to hit Cairo is manifesting itself an offbeat new culinary experience, called the Balady Chic movement. Balady being the Arabic word for local, this new trend aims to modernize traditional Egyptian street food - hence the chic.

Despite political and economic uncertainty, Egypt’s food scene is seeing an entrepreneurial flourish with exciting new venues opening everyday.

Known for being quick and cheap, food such as populist favorite koshary, a savory mix of pasta, rice and lentils in spicy tomato sauce, can be bought at almost every street corner in Egypt's capital.

Koshary: Tastier than it looks, and a lot of bang for your buck (Arria Belli)

Carbohydrate-loaded and at around $1 for a large helping, the dish is a staple for most of the population. Other dishes such as ful – fave beans soaked in brine and often served crushed with olive oil and lemon – and falafel – fried fava bean patties – are also popular.

Serving up a bougie bamiya

But new restaurants like Cairo Kitchen and Zooba intend to transform Egyptian food, producing a space to experiment with tradition and create new favorites. These venues are an interior designer’s heaven, clean modern designs that incorporate more familiar classical Egyptian motifs and graphics.


Zooba storefront (Nancy Salem)

Zooba, one of the first to introduce the concept of the chic intrinsically Egyptian cuisine, is styled after a traditional Egyptian kitchen.

A koshary station is manned by a waiter, making from scratch the dish's familiar and rich red sauce, a blend of tomato, vinegar and sliced onion.


Koshary station (Nancy Salem)

There is also a batata – potato – station, making roasted sweet potato just as it would have been made in the tin oven, on the wooden cart outside. The twist here is the marshmallows, simple, but an undeniably good combination.

The sandwiches of ful and falafel are fresh and come wrapped in what looks like an Egyptian newspaper, another nod to tradition. With fresh bread baking in the open fire oven, or forn, there is no doubt that each element has been carefully planned.

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