8 foods you MUST try when you’re in Egypt
Do you know that Egyptian cuisine has some of the best lip-smacking foods in the world? If you are planning to visit Egypt, it is time to step out of your comfort zone and do some experiment. Don’t worry, food experiments are so much fun! Anyway, it is boring to stick with popular international food chains. You need all those proteins to take long day tours to breathtaking historical sites in the scorching sun. After all, you must eat like a local (or at least pharaoh) when you’re in Egypt. I’ve listed down some of my favourite foods from my solo trip to Egypt.
As a South Indian woman, I’m familiar to some of the best vegetarian/vegan foods back home. And I must admit, Koshari is probably the tastiest vegetarian food that I’ve tried outside India hands down! It is made with a mixture of rice, macaroni, lentils and chickpeas. The dish comes along with a spicy gravy in a small saucer. I had this ‘piece of art’ almost every day when I was in Cairo. And it was the best source of proteins too. This national food of Egypt is even tastier at local food joints from where locals eat. Please don’t go for the ones at touristy restaurants!
2. Ta’meya (Falafel)
Falafel is also an awesome vegetarian alternative to meat for protein. This traditional Middle Eastern food is commonly found in Egypt in the name of Ta’meya. Or let’s just call it as Egyptian falafel! Who would have thought a nutrient-packed food would taste this heavenly! These little fried balls are mostly made with ground chickpeas, and go exceptionally well with Egyptian traditional breads topped with some tahini sauce. One great tip is to loosen your pants before you hit a local restaurant because you absolutely CANNOT stop with just having one!
It looks like a hotdog but tastes nothing like that! Mahshi is much healthier and flavourful too. It basically means stuffed squash. Vegetables like aubergine, zucchini, bell peppers are cored out to be stuffed with a mixture of rice, herbs, spices, and lean meat. It can also be made vegetarian which equally tastes amazing! Mahshi is mostly prepared during family gatherings, weddings, or any Egyptian celebration for that matter. However, you can also find these in many local restaurants at every nook and corner for cheaper prices.
Who said Middle Eastern cuisine is all about juicy meats? Well, Egypt is a land of unique and flavourful vegetarian/vegan delicacies too! Molokhia is a traditional soup made of jute leaves. The Egyptians believe that the dish dates back in history when pharaohs drank the soup to cure illnesses. It is simple, yet so delicious. This low-calorie soup is like a comfort food served across Egypt. It goes well with pita, rice or any lean meat. If you are planning to visit the mediterranean port city Alexandria, try this out with seafood. Trust me, they’re match made in heaven!
5. Aish baladi bread with besarah
Aish baladi is an Egyptian whole wheat flatbread. It is also known as bread of Ancient Egypt. And did you know that Ancient Egyptians were first to make yeast-leavened bread? Wheat harvesting is very common in Egypt since the time of pharaohs. However, it has become a staple food for both rich and poor today. Now the bread without a good dip is like a crime to me! So besarah is a dip, primarily made of ground beans and a lot of spices. It is the best friend of baladi breads! You can find this combo at most restaurants across the country. But you can grab the best tasting one from market areas where the flavours are true to its origin.
I almost spent an hour at a famous pastry shop on my last day in Cairo. A trip to Egypt is incomplete without tasting the popular Arabic sweets! Hence, I took my local friend’s help to buy the best Egyptian sweets for my loved ones back home. While all the sweets tasted great, I absolutely loved Egypt’s traditional one, basbousa. It is like a semolina cake soaked in sweet syrup. And it is a must-buy for your foodie-friends back home. Also, there is good chance that you may devour it before your friends do!
7. Sweet potato from carts
Egypt is all about long day tours to museums, Khan el-Khalili and historical monuments. So, it is important to have a snack in your backpack to relish during quick breaks. However, it is ok to not carry one when you’re going to market places in Cairo. If you are probably wondering why, there are baked sweet potato sold in carts everywhere. It is cheap and healthy as well! Thanks to my local friend who introduced me to this healthy snack. I was totally hooked on it for the rest of my days in Cairo. Simple, yet finger-licking good!
8. Egyptian tea
Ok. Tea is not food, it is a drink. I know! But the Egyptian tea deserves a spot in the list. If you ever get a chance to visit Islamic Cairo, you MUST have Egypt’s national drink at local cafes around. That’s right, this refreshing black tea is a kick-start for most Egyptians around the clock. There are many variations to the drink. You can choose to have it with or without milk, sugar and mint. Most locals like to smoke hookah pipes and sip tea at cafes in the market area. So, don’t forget to have this traditional drink while you’re in Egypt! It is a bliss to enjoy tea-breaks amidst long day tours during the sunset while listening to ‘azan’ (prayer call from mosques) and church bells. Do try it out! You can always come back to this post and thank me later!
The bottom line…
Egypt is a dreamland for all types of foodies, be it vegetarians, non-vegetarians or vegans! That said, I still think it is important to keep an eye on your health at all times. Meanwhile, enjoy your stay in the ancient land! Also, please share your experience with Egyptian cuisine in the comments below. I’d love to hear them out!
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.