A little while after I got back from my trip to Luxor, the Egypt Tourism Authority asked me to write about my top 5 Egyptian foods. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the food in Egypt. I have eaten Middle Eastern cuisine before (in fact I am quite a fan) but I didn’t know how Egyptian food would compare. Thankfully, I was in for a nice surprise- particularly because I was lucky enough to be treated to some home-cooked, local foods. I am not much of a cook myself but I’m going to have to try and track down some of those recipes because, over a month later, I’m still craving Egyptian food.
I have had various experiences with tagine. In Morocco, it was a combination of meat and vegetables, cooked in one of those conical, terracotta pots. In Egypt, however, it was more of a soupy-stew. On this occasion, my tagine consisted of fish in a tomato sauce with lots of spices. It was the perfect comfort food and great for dipping some traditional Egyptian bread in.
2. Mixed Grill
This seemed to be a very popular dish when dining out in Egypt, with a selection of meats (often chicken and lamb) and vegetables included. You can’t really go to Egypt and avoid having a mixed grill – nor should you. This dish was good at filling you up but not to the extent that you felt that you felt uncomfortable and like you couldn’t move in 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 and discovered that it was lentil soup. Pulses play a big role in Egyptian cooking, so even if you think you’re not a fan of these, you should approach them with an open-mind because chances are you will be pleasantly surprised.
I only discovered falafel last year, when I was in Germany. Since then, I have been hooked. It tastes great in wraps, sandwiches and salads. Egyptian falafel, however, didn’t taste like any falafel I 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 it definitely needs a mention. Being a 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 with a fair bit of sugar. Also, instead of a tea bag, the loose leaves are left in to settle at the bottom of your glass (note, not a mug or teacup but a glass). 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. Delicious.