Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Fuul Me Once, Shame on You, Fuul Me Twice, Shame on Me

Egypt is known for many things - ancient civilization, impressive monuments, inspiring uprisings.  It is not, however, known for its food.  Although we were mostly disappointed with our mediocre falafels (but only $0.17 USD!) and watery hummus, we did manage to uncover for you, our trusty readers, the best (and worst) Egypt has to offer.

Typical take-out joint near our hotel in Garden City.
We didn't know what we were ordering and accidentally ended up with
what appeared to be a french fry sandwich.  It was one of the best things we ate in Cairo.
Fuul:  A traditional breakfast dish of mushed up fava beans, fuul tastes kind of like refried beans, and looks like refried beans topped with beans.  Not completely gross, but not really what you want to start your morning with.  We only made that mistake once.

Lebanese food:  The most delicious of what you think of as middle eastern food - mezze - we found mostly in Lebanese restaurants.  Humus, babaghanoush, falafel, arabic salad (Israeli salad, but they're not going to call it that), etc.  Just don't expect a delicious pita bread.  What we got was usually dry and stale.

Tasty mezze at Sofra in Luxor
Koshary: This traditional, inexpensive vegetarian Egyptian dish is a carb-loaders dream - pasta (long and short) over rice and lentils, and topped with fried onions, chickpeas and spicy tomato sauce.  We ordered ours up at Abu Tarek, the "palace of koshary," according to the Lonely Planet.   It was quite delicious, incredibly filling and cost less than $2 for a giant bowl.

Koshary from Abu Tarek, Cairo.
Fiteer: Somewhere between a crepe and a pancake, fiteer is a thin, flaky dough wrapped around savory (such as chicken, egg, chilis) or sweet (like custard, coconut, raisins, honey) toppings.  At about $2-3 each, this is, in our opinion, the ultimate Cairo street food.

Throwing the fiteer dough
Savory fiteer from Egyptian Pancake House near the Khan Khalili market
Sweet fiteer from a random place around the corner from our hotel.
So delicious.
Meat:  The most typical meat dishes we found were shish kebab (lamb), shish tareq (chicken) and kofta (meatballs).  Shwarma was also available on the street all over Cairo, but they (disappointingly) use a hot dog bun instead of a pita or lavash bread.

Delicious shish tareq at Tabouleh in Cairo
Shish kebab (and sides) at King Chicken, Dahab.
This entire meal - plus a 1/2 rotisserie chicken (not pictured) cost $4 USD.
Shwarma stand in Old Cairo
Tea:  Egyptians seem to be constantly drinking tea, from teeth-achingly sweet bedouin tea, to refreshing mint tea, fragrant hibiscus tea and seemingly a thousand other varieties.

Mint tea at Fishwaddy's in Khan al Khalili market
Afternoon mint tea on our Nile cruise.
Fresh Juice:  Fresh juice was everywhere in Egypt and was delicious and surprisingly cheap.  Traditional favorites were orange juice and mango juice, but surprise standouts included strawberry juice and lemon juice (sweet, tart and frothy!)

Dave enjoying a morning OJ.
Strawberry juice and lemon juice
Sushi:  Yeah, there's sushi to be had in Cairo, and we tried it at Sequoia, a gorgeous all-white restaurant right on the water at the very tip of Zamelak island.  We didn't get sick, but (not surprisingly) we'd suggest passing on the sushi (but not passing on Sequoia - a great restaurant).

I miss Mizu

Conclusion:  There are many reasons to travel to Egypt, but the food is not one of them.  Our suggestion is to keep it cheap, and stick to the fiteers (Egyptian pancakes/pizzas); once we found these we didn't really eat anything else.

1 comment:

  1. I would probably stick to a liquid diet of the juices and tea. You are a lot braver than I am.


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