Food is one of the ways that a culture can express itself. The Egyptian cuisine relies on the rich bounty of fruits and vegetables harvested in the fertile Nile Delta. Many dishes in Egypt are vegetarian based but nowadays meat can be added to many of the dishes. Beef, lamb, and offal are commonly used in the dishes. Seafood is more popular on the Egyptian coasts. Pork is not added to traditional dishes as the majority of the Egyptian population is Muslim.
Since Egypt went through different eras under different rulers with different cultures the Egyptian cuisine adapted and enhanced the traditional dishes those dishes turned out to be unique in that it takes your taste buds on a new delightful journey. Here are 14 must-tries during your trip to Egypt:
Moussaka, a Mediterranean classic, is one of the traditional Egyptian dishes created at home by combining eggplant, lemon, vinegar, tomato sauce, and vegetables.
Fried sliced eggplants are combined with sliced onions, sliced potatoes, green peppers, and chili peppers in a flat pan. The meal is then topped with a crimson sauce prepared from tomato paste, garlic, and spices, then baked. Before cooking, place a layer of ground beef between the eggplant pieces. The meal can be served hot, although it is normally refrigerated for a day or so before serving to increase the flavor. This dish can be served during lunch or dinner.
Besarah is a fragrant vegetarian meal prepared from fava beans that have been crushed into a thick mash or paste and seasoned with dill, leek, green pepper, fried onions, and spices. It's sometimes served as a side dish with grilled meat or fish, but it's usually served as a main course with Egyptian flatbread and green onions. In other regions of Egypt, besarah may be thinner and lighter, with the fava beans blitzed into a runny paste to be used as a dipping sauce.
Kushari, an inexpensive and distinctly Egyptian meal. It is a cult phenomenon, with entire restaurants all over Egypt dedicated to serving it exclusively. It's made up of rice, spaghetti, round macaroni, and black lentils, and it's topped with a rich tomato sauce, garlic vinegar, and chile. This eclectic mix of ingredients is then topped with crispy fried onions and entire chickpeas. As weird as it may sound, Kushari offers a unique mix of tastes and textures that both residents and visitors find irresistible. It is also vegan (and indeed vegan, as long as vegetable oil is used to fry the onions instead of butter).
4. Mahshi (Stuffed Vegetables and Grape Leaves)
Mahshi is a beloved meal among Egyptians of all sizes! When prepared with minimal amounts of butter or oil, it's a highly healthy dinner. It's also a delectable vegetarian dish.
The stuffing for this dish is prepared of rice and seasoned with crushed red tomatoes, onion, parsley, dill, salt, pepper, and spices before being placed inside cored vegetables such as green bell peppers, eggplants, zucchini, tomatoes, or grape and cabbage leaves. They're then poured in a saucepan with chicken or beef broth on top. It is frequently served with beef, lamb, or chicken.
This famous meal is common throughout the Mediterranean, but the Egyptian version is the greatest.
5. Molokhia (Bush okra stew)
Mulukhiya is an Egyptian staple called after the plant of the same name. It is spelled differently from restaurant to restaurant (with variations including molokhia, and molokhiya). Mulukhiya, sometimes known as jute in English, is a green leafy vegetable that is rarely offered uncooked. Instead, the leaves are coarsely chopped and stewed in a thick stew with garlic, lemon juice, and spices. The stewed leaves have a slimy texture due to their natural viscosity, but their flavor is rich, fragrant, and delightfully bitter. Mulukhiya can be eaten on its own or with meat pieces over rice or bread (typically beef, chicken, or rabbit). In coastal areas, seafood is a common addition.
6. Bamia (Okra)
Originally from the Middle East, Bamia is a thick stew made with okra, tomatoes, and spices that is eaten with bread, rice, and salad. The Egyptian version often includes lamb chops that become wonderfully soft and supple throughout the extended cooking period of the stew. Egyptians also season the meal with ta'aleya, a sort of garlic cooking sauce, as well as coriander, cardamom, and onion. Bamia is the Arabic term for okra, which is one of the main components in this rich and flavorful meal.
A layer of fried small bread pieces combined with garlic vinegar dipping sauce is covered by a layer of rice cooked with veal broth or lamb broth and topped with a spicy tomato sauce in the Fattah dish. This one is eaten primarily at Muslim feasts and even some Christian feasts, but it can also be offered on regular days. In addition, huge portions of stewed beef are served alongside the Fattah, especially during Eid EL Adha (Muslim religious feast) and Easter for Christians. It is a meal that everyone who visits Egypt should try as it's delightful and hearty. It is available at restaurants serving oriental cuisine throughout Egypt.
Hawawshi is a grounded beef sandwich that everyone must try. Before baking in an oven, spiced minced meat and onions fill the inside of the Baladi bread (pita bread) covering. Hawawshi's experienced artisans roast the sandwich in a wood oven that crisps the bread so nicely that you'd think it was deep-fried from the crunchiness of the outside bread. It's typically eaten with pickled veggies. Nowadays some add American cheese to the Hawawshi to make it even more mouthwatering. Nowadays, most butchers produce Hawawshi at their shops, and it is also made at home. It is quite tasty, and everyone will feel satisfied after eating it.
9. Alexandrian Liver sandwich
Many Egyptian cuisines include liver as an ingredient. In the ancient port city of Alexandria, liver sandwiches are a delicacy, and travelers come from all around to buy them from street sellers or fast food restaurants. Chopped calf's liver is often stir-fried to perfection with garlic, bell peppers, and lime or lemon. Spices are important, although they differ from chef to cook. Chile should be present in any Alexandrian liver dish worth its salt in addition to cumin, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and/or cardamom. When the liver has been cooked, it is placed inside a fresh Egyptian baguette or Baladi bread roll and served with pickled veggies (known locally as torshi).
Sayadeya is a baked fish dish served mainly in coastal cities like Alexandria, Port Said, and Suez. It consists of a white fish fillet (typically bluefish, bass, or lionfish) seasoned with parsley, cumin, and spices. The fish is slowly roasted in an earthenware pot with onion and a mild tomato sauce, allowing the flavors to saturate the fillet. After cooking, the fish is served whole with a side of yellow rice and eish Baladi bread (Pita bread) - ideal for an alfresco meal along the Mediterranean shore.
11. Tamiya (Falafel)
Ta'meya, Egypt's version of the felafel, is a widely popular street dish. Ta'meya, unlike its Middle Eastern counterparts, are prepared with crushed fava beans rather than chickpeas. The bean paste is typically combined with chopped onions and spices like parsley, coriander, cumin, and fresh dill before being wrapped into a ball and cooked. Before being fried, ta'meya are frequently covered with sesame seeds, giving them an additional crispy texture. They're vegan, cheap, and tasty, whether you have them for breakfast, as most Egyptians do, or as a snack later in the day. Ta'meya is commonly served with tahini sauce, salad, and Baladi bread, as well as a side of ful.
12. Ful Medames (Mashed Fava beans)
The iconic Egyptian staple, ful medames, is a simple stewed fava bean meal. The first indication of fava beans being consumed by humans is that the dish is thought to have originated in Egypt during the reign of the pharaohs. Today, ful medames (or ful, as it's often known) is served all day, although it's most beloved for breakfast. It's sold on the streets and served as a classic mezze in numerous restaurants. In a big saucepan, the beans are cooked overnight before being seasoned with olive oil and spices. Full medames is traditionally served with Baladi bread and pickled veggies.
The Egyptian eggah is a thick omelet made with an egg, parsley, and flour batter and baked with fried onion, parsley, cumin, and spices, similar to the Italian frittata. Eggah is typically baked in a deep pan in the oven, although there are also versions that are made on the stovetop and eaten as a late breakfast or brunch. Lunchtime is when traditional eggah is served with a side of tahini and mixed salad.
14. Hamam mahshi (Stuffed Pigeon)
Squab, or young pigeon, is not a common meat in Western culture, but it is considered a delicacy in Egypt. Pigeons are reared in dovecotes around the country for the table, offering dark meat with its own distinct flavor. Hamam mahshi is a popular option for wedding feasts, partially due to its standing as a delicacy and partly due to its aphrodisiac properties. A whole squab is stuffed with freekeh (cracked green wheat with a nutty taste), chopped onions, giblets, and spices to produce the meal. The bird is then grilled or spit-roasted over a wood fire until the skin is golden brown and wonderfully crispy.