8 Traditional Egyptian Food Favorites
Usually when people think of outstanding cuisine the first places that come to mind are countries such as France, Italy, or Greece. However, Egypt’s food culture is highly underrated. I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that they have had over 5,000 years to perfect it. Embracing influences from the various cultures that have crossed paths with Egypt, the food has developed through the centuries into a unique cuisine that differs from other African and Middle Eastern countries. To the average person, Egyptian food is a mystery. We can find Thai, Indian, Chinese, and even Moroccan food in most major cities in the US, however, you’ll be hard pressed to find Egyptian restaurants in the states. It’s no wonder that most people can’t name a single Egyptian dish. So here is a list of the most popular foods to introduce you to this intriguing cuisine:
Let’s begin with the national dish of Egypt. Koshari is a carb lover’s dream comprised of pasta, rice, lentils, chickpeas, caramelized onions, and a vinegary tomato sauce. If there is one dish that every visitor MUST try, it would be this down to earth comfort food. Tasting this dish will not be difficult to accomplish as you can find it everywhere throughout the country. There are even Koshari restaurants devoted specifically to Egypt’s most popular dish.
It is true that you can find this dish in many Middle Eastern countries, but it is done differently in each. Of course Egypt has it’s own spin on Fattah, where it is made with rice, crispy pieces of bread, tomato sauce, garlic, warm spices and either beef or lamb. While this dish can be eaten for any occasion, it is also a main dish traditionally served at banquets celebrating the birth of a new baby.
Those seeking a traditional Egyptian breakfast will find it with ful medames. Ful medames is a dish of fava beans cooked in spices and olive oil and typically served with pita or French bread. It is believed by many that this staple dish dates all the way back to Ancient Egypt. You can bet that anything that has stuck around for that many years owes it’s staying power to sheer deliciousness.
This is probably the dish that most people around the world will find recognizable. Warak Enab is the Egyptian version of stuffed grape leaves. They are made of spiced rice (and often ground beef) wrapped in grape leaves and cooked in tomato sauce and served with lemon or lime.
Feteer means “pie” and is often called Egyptian pizza. This delicious treat is made of a stack of layered filo dough and cooked inside a brick oven. The original version is plain but there are other varieties available as well ranging from sweet with honey, powdered sugar, fruit or chocolate to savory with veggies, cheese, or meat. This is another dish that dates back to Ancient Egypt and was often left at temples as offerings to the gods.
The Egyptian version of baked ziti, this dish is comprised of penne pasta, ground beef and cheesy béchamel sauce. This is a great option for those who are not adventurous when it comes to trying new foods and flavors since it will be pretty recognizable to western taste buds.
Yes, the iconic Middle Eastern street food, Shawarma, is popular in Egypt too! Shawarma is marinated meat (lamb, beef, goat or chicken) that has been roasted on a spit and shaved into thin slices. It is often served in rolls or pita bread with tahini sauce and onions, pickled vegetables, and other toppings. Shawarma can be found in restaurants as well as food carts on practically every corner.
Another dish that is common throughout all of the Middle East, the Egyptian version differs in it’s main ingredient. While the Middle Eastern countries make these deep fried fritters with chickpeas, Egyptians use their favorite fava beans. These vegetarian snacks can be eaten on their own or wrapped in pita.
Well I don’t know about anyone else but I am suddenly famished!