Shortly after I got back from my trip to Luxor, the Egypt Tourism Authority got in touch and asked me to write about my top five Egyptian foods. This is something I was more than happy to do. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Egyptian food but I love Middle Eastern cuisine and Egypt did not let me down. I was actually lucky enough to get treated to some home-cooked, local delicacies and my expectations were well and truly exceeded.
Tagine can come in various shapes and sizes. In Morocco, I was served a combination of meat and vegetables which had been cooked in a conical, terracotta pot. In Egypt, however, I was instead served a soupy-stew. On this particular occasion, my tagine consisted of fish in a tomato sauce, cooked with lots of spices. It was the perfect comfort food and ideal for dipping some traditional Egyptian bread in.
2. Mixed Grill
Judging by the frequency with which I spotted mixed grills on menus in Egypt, they seemed to be a very popular option when dining out. They come with a selection of meats (often chicken and lamb) and vegetables and you cannot (and should not) go to Egypt without having one. The dish was good at filling you up but not to the extend that you felt uncomfortable and like you couldn’t move – which is really not a position you want to be in, when you’re under the boiling Egyptian sun.
3. Lentil Soup
I’ve never been much of a lentil person, so you can imagine my surprise when I enquired into the delicious dish I was eating, only to find it was lentil soup. Pulses play a big role in Egyptian cooking so, even if you’re not a fan, you should approach them with an open-mind because chances are you will be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise you might miss out on something great.
I only discovered falafel last year, when I was briefly living in a part of Berlin that had a large Turkish population. Since then I have been hooked. Egyptian falafel, however, didn’t taste like any falafel I’ve had before. Whilst the classic Middle Eastern dish is usually made by deep frying chickpeas and various herbs, Egyptian falafel is instead made using broad beans. It tastes great eaten with some classic Egyptian dips, including hummus (chickpeas), tahini (sesame seeds) or zabadi (yogurt, mint and cucumber).
5. Egyptian Tea
Technically not a food but Egyptian tea definitely needs a mention. Being a stereotypical Brit, I always feel more settled in a new place when I discover there is good tea. Egyptian tea is quite bitter and is drunk black and with a fair bit of sugar. Also, instead of a tea bag, the loose leaves are left to settle at the bottom of your glass (note a glass, not a mug or teacup). Every morning, my day would start with a glass or two of Egyptian tea and, obviously,I had to bring a box home with me: my little piece of Egypt.
I was only meant to pick five foods but, as I had so many good things to eat in Egypt, I’m going to cheat by reeling off a couple more! Sadly I don’t know the name of some of my favourite dishes, including one that consisted of boiled potatoes mixed with tomatoes and various spices, including paprika. All I can say is that I had no idea that potatoes could taste like that. Another of my highlights was a spiced, salsa-like salad, with tomatoes, cucumber and parsley. Another similar dish involved aubergine with a salsa-like seasoning. I’m going to have to get a bit creative in the kitchen to try and recreate some of these gems.