Top 10 Foods in Egypt
From the bustling streets of Cairo to the tranquil villages along the Nile, each region in Egypt boasts its own culinary specialties and local ingredients. Whether you are a meat lover, a vegetarian, or have a sweet tooth, Egyptian cuisine has something to offer for everyone. Here is the list of the top 10 foods available in Egypt:
Ful Wa Ta’ameya
Cooked fava beans
National food of Egypt
Middle Eastern Dish
Kofta and Kebab
Skewers of Ground beef and Lamb
Sweet, syrup-soaked semolina cake
Layered pastry dessert
Alexandria Cheese Fondue
Egyptian Variety of Fondue
Best Foods in Egypt
Egypt is a country known for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and vibrant culture. But one aspect that truly captivates visitors and locals alike is its delectable cuisine. Egyptian cuisine is a delightful fusion of flavors, influenced by various civilizations that have left their mark on the land over centuries. From hearty street food to sumptuous traditional dishes, Egypt offers a diverse and mouthwatering culinary experience.
In this guide, we will take you on a journey through the best foods in Egypt, exploring the iconic dishes that define the country’s gastronomy. Get ready to tantalize your taste buds with a wide array of flavors, spices, and textures that make Egyptian cuisine truly exceptional.
1. Ful Wa Ta’ameya (Egyptian-style Falafel)
Ful Wa Ta’ameya, also known as Ta’ameya Sandwich, is a popular and flavorsome Egyptian street food that has been enjoyed for centuries. This dish combines two main elements: Ful, which is a mixture of mashed fava beans cooked with aromatic spices, and Ta’ameya, which are patties made from ground fava beans blended with herbs and spices. Here are more details about Ful Wa Ta’ameya:
To make Ful, fava beans are cooked until soft and then mashed with a combination of spices such as cumin, garlic, and lemon juice. The result is a creamy and savory mixture that forms the base of the sandwich.
Ta’ameya, also known as Egyptian falafel, is made by grinding soaked or boiled fava beans and mixing them with ingredients like parsley, cilantro, garlic, onions, and spices such as cumin and coriander. The mixture is then formed into small patties and deep-fried until golden and crispy.
Ful Wa Ta’ameya is widely available at street food stalls, local eateries, and restaurants throughout Egypt. It is a beloved and affordable option that is enjoyed by people from all walks of life.
This dish holds cultural significance as it reflects the culinary traditions and heritage of Egypt. It represents the vibrant street food culture of the country and showcases the use of fava beans, a staple ingredient in Egyptian cuisine.
2. Ful Medames (Cooked Fava Beans)
Ful Medames is a classic Egyptian dish that has stood the test of time, being enjoyed by both ancient and modern Egyptians. This nutritious and flavorful recipe has been a staple on Egyptian tables for centuries.
Ful Medames is primarily made with Fava beans (also known as broad beans), which are cooked until soft and tender. The beans are typically simmered slowly with water, seasoned with ingredients like olive oil, cumin, and salt. This slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld and the beans to absorb the seasonings.
Ful Medames is traditionally served with a variety of garnishes that enhance its taste and presentation. Lemon juice is commonly drizzled over the dish, providing a tangy and refreshing element. Chopped onions and parsley are often sprinkled on top, adding a burst of freshness and texture. Additionally, a sprinkle of cumin may be added to further enhance the flavors.
In Egypt, Ful Medames is not only a popular home-cooked dish but is also readily available at local cafes and street food stalls. It is a favorite among locals due to its simplicity, affordability, and the nutritious benefits of Fava beans.
Ful Medames holds cultural significance in Egypt, representing a connection to the country’s ancient culinary heritage. It is a dish that brings people together and is enjoyed by people of all walks of life. Its enduring popularity and presence in Egyptian cuisine showcase the pride and appreciation for traditional flavors.
3. Koshari (National food of Egypt)
Koshari is a beloved street food in Egypt that is widely enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. This hearty and satisfying dish is known for its carb-rich ingredients and flavorful toppings.
Koshari is a delightful combination of rice, macaroni, and lentils. These three components form the base of the dish and provide a substantial and filling foundation. The rice is typically cooked until fluffy, the macaroni is boiled to al dente perfection, and the lentils are simmered until tender.
Once the rice, macaroni, and lentils are cooked, they are mixed together to create a flavorful and texturally diverse combination. This mixture is then topped with a generous helping of tomato sauce, which adds a tangy and savory element to the dish.
To enhance the flavors even further, koshari is often garnished with chickpeas and fried onions. The chickpeas provide a nutty taste and a delightful bite, while the fried onions add a crispy and aromatic element to the dish.
Finishing touches include a drizzle of garlic vinegar, which adds a tangy and pungent kick. The combination of these ingredients creates a harmonious blend of flavors and textures that make koshari a truly satisfying meal.
Koshari represents the culinary heritage of Egypt and is considered a comfort food that resonates with both locals and visitors. Its availability and popularity across the country make it a must-try dish for anyone exploring Egyptian cuisine.
4. Hamam Mahshi (Stuffed Squab)
Hamam mahshi, also known as stuffed pigeon, is a traditional and unique Egyptian dish that has been enjoyed for centuries. Pigeons are commonly kept in mud brick lofts along the Nile, and they are often used to prepare this special delicacy.
To make hamam mahshi, the pigeons are cleaned and prepared for stuffing. The stuffing typically consists of a mixture of onions, spices, and a grain called freekeh. Freekeh is a type of green cracked wheat that has a slightly nutty flavor. Alternatively, rice or bulgur wheat may be used as the stuffing.
The pigeons are carefully filled with the stuffing mixture, and then they are usually secured with twine or skewered to keep the filling intact during cooking. The stuffed pigeons are then cooked using various methods, such as roasting, grilling, or braising, until they are tender and cooked through.
Hamam mahshi is traditionally enjoyed on special occasions and festive gatherings in Egypt. It is a dish that holds cultural significance and is often served to honor guests and celebrate important events.
While hamam mahshi is commonly prepared in homes for special occasions, it can also be found on the menus of certain restaurants that specialize in traditional Egyptian cuisine. This allows locals and visitors to experience the unique flavors and cultural heritage of this dish.
Though hamam mahshi may evoke different reactions due to cultural differences regarding the consumption of pigeons, it remains a cherished and significant dish in Egyptian cuisine. Its availability in certain restaurants allows individuals to explore and appreciate the diverse culinary offerings in Egypt.
5. Fiteer Baladi (Egyptian Pizza)
Indeed, fiteer is a delicious and indulgent Egyptian dish that bears some resemblance to pizza. It is a pastry made with layers of filo dough that are typically cooked in a brick oven, resulting in a buttery and flaky texture. Fiteer can be enjoyed in both sweet and savory variations, offering a wide range of flavor options.
The original fiteer is often served plain, allowing the buttery and flaky nature of the pastry to shine. It can be enjoyed on its own as a simple yet satisfying treat.
Savory fiteer is a popular choice and can be customized with various fillings. Meats such as minced lamb or beef, along with vegetables like bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes, can be added. Cheese, such as mozzarella or feta, may also be included to enhance the savory flavors. The fillings are typically placed between the layers of filo dough, and the fiteer is then baked until golden and the fillings are cooked.
Fiteer is known for its richness and high-calorie content, making it a treat best enjoyed in moderation. However, its indulgent taste and versatility make it a popular choice for those seeking a unique and flavorful dish.
While fiteer bears some similarities to pizza, it offers a distinct experience with its flaky layers and various filling options. Whether you prefer the simplicity of the original version or the savory or sweet variations, fiteer is a delightful culinary creation that is sure to please your taste buds.
6. Shawarma (Middle Eastern Dish)
Shawarma in Egypt follows the marinating layers of meat, such as lamb, chicken, or beef, with a blend of spices and seasonings. The marinated meat is then stacked on a vertical rotisserie or spit and slowly grilled or roasted for hours. As the outer layers of the meat become cooked and tender, they are shaved off using a sharp knife or specialized shawarma slicer.
The shaved meat is typically placed inside a warm and fluffy bread or roll, often called a “sanga” or “sangwich” in Egypt. Along with the succulent meat, shawarma sandwiches in Egypt are commonly filled with a variety of accompaniments and condiments. These may include tahini sauce, garlic sauce, pickles, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, and sometimes even french fries.
Shawarma sandwiches have become a popular street food item in Egypt, offering a delicious and satisfying meal on the go. They can be found in numerous food stalls, street vendors, and small shops throughout the country, catering to locals and tourists alike. The combination of tender, flavorful meat, aromatic spices, and the array of fillings creates a delightful and satisfying taste experience.
Egypt’s cultural influence and historical ties to the Ottoman Empire have contributed to the popularity and integration of shawarma into Egyptian cuisine. It has become a beloved street food, and shawarma sandwiches, or “shawarma sangas,” as you mentioned, have become a highlight for many food enthusiasts in Egypt.
7. Kofta and Kebab (Skewers of Ground beef and Lamb)
Kofta is a flavorful dish made from minced beef or lamb (or a combination of both). The meat is typically mixed with a variety of spices, herbs, and seasonings such as onions, garlic, cumin, coriander, and parsley. These ingredients are combined thoroughly and shaped into cylindrical or elongated rolls.
The kofta rolls are then grilled or roasted, which imparts a smoky and charred flavor to the meat. Kofta can be served on its own as a main dish, accompanied by sides like rice, bread, and salads. It is often enjoyed with condiments or sauces like tahini or tzatziki.
Kebabs, on the other hand, consist of pieces of meat (such as lamb, veal, or chicken) that are skewered and grilled over a charcoal fire. The meat is marinated in a flavorful mixture of spices, herbs, and oils to enhance its taste and tenderness.
As the kebabs cook, they acquire a delicious charred exterior while remaining juicy and succulent on the inside. Kebabs can be served on their own or wrapped in flatbread with salad and sauces to make a delicious sandwich. They are typically accompanied by rice, grilled vegetables, and dips like hummus or garlic sauce.
Both kofta and kebab dishes are beloved for their savory flavors and aromatic spices. They are often enjoyed during festive occasions, family gatherings, or simply as a satisfying meal at restaurants or street food stalls. The combination of perfectly seasoned meat, smoky grilling, and accompanying sides creates a delightful culinary experience that is sure to leave meat lovers in a state of gastronomic bliss.
8. Basbousa (Sweet, Syrup-soaked Semolina Cake)
Basbousa is indeed a well-known and beloved dessert that originated in Egypt. It is a delectable cake-like treat made primarily from semolina, which is a coarse wheat flour. Basbousa is famous for its unique texture, sticky sweetness, and delightful citrus flavor.
The preparation of basbousa involves combining semolina flour with sugar, butter or oil, yogurt, and a touch of baking powder. The mixture is then poured into a baking dish and typically scored into diamond or square shapes before baking. Once baked, the cake is often soaked in a sweet syrup, which adds moisture and enhances its sweetness.
The syrup used for basbousa is typically made from a combination of sugar, water, and lemon juice or orange blossom water. The syrup is poured over the freshly baked basbousa, allowing it to soak in and infuse the cake with a luscious sweetness and tangy citrus notes.
Basbousa can be enjoyed either warm or cold. Some prefer to serve it immediately after baking when it is still warm and fragrant, while others prefer to let it cool down and serve it chilled. It is a popular dessert choice for various occasions and can be found in bakeries, dessert shops, and homes across Egypt.
With its soft and moist texture, the sticky syrup, and the burst of citrus flavor, basbousa offers a delightful sensory experience. It is a treat that satisfies sweet cravings and is often enjoyed alongside a cup of tea or coffee. Whether enjoyed warm or cold, basbousa is a delightful addition to any dessert spread and is cherished by those who appreciate Egyptian sweets.
9. Baqlawa (Layered Pastry Dessert)
Baqlawa, also known as baklawa, is indeed a beloved dessert in Egypt. It is a delightful layered pastry that is known for its golden, flaky texture and sweet nut filling. Baqlawa can be found in various patisseries throughout Egypt and is also served in restaurants and households during special occasions or as a sweet treat.
The preparation of baqlawa involves layering thin sheets of phyllo pastry and spreading a mixture of finely chopped nuts, such as walnuts, pistachios, or almonds, between the layers. The nuts provide a rich, crunchy texture and a delicious nutty flavor. The layered pastry is then baked until it becomes crispy and golden.
After baking, the baqlawa is traditionally soaked in a sweet syrup made from a combination of sugar, water, and sometimes rose or orange blossom water. The syrup is poured over the warm pastry, allowing it to be absorbed and infusing each layer with a delightful sweetness. Alternatively, some variations of baqlawa may be drizzled with honey instead of syrup.
The end result is a mouthwatering dessert with a beautiful presentation, as the layered pastry is often cut into diamond or square shapes. Baqlawa is enjoyed as a special treat to be savored with a cup of tea or coffee, and it is a staple dessert during festive occasions and celebrations in Egypt.
10. Alexandria Cheese Fondue (Egyptian Variety of Fondue)
Cheese fondue is not typically considered a traditional Egyptian dish, but there is a restaurant in Alexandria called Alban Swissra that offers a unique and delightful twist on this classic. At Alban Swissra, they prepare a cheese fondue that is sure to impress.
The restaurant uses a popular Egyptian cheese called rumi cheese as the base for their fondue. To make it even more delicious and hearty, they add a variety of meats such as pastrami, sausage, minced meat, and chicken to the dish. This combination of flavors creates a truly indulgent and savory experience.
To enjoy the cheese fondue, it is served alongside crunchy Egyptian bread, providing the perfect vehicle for dipping into the warm and gooey cheese mixture. The contrast of the crispy bread with the rich and creamy cheese is a delight for cheese lovers and those seeking a unique and adventurous taste experience.
While cheese fondue may not be a traditional Egyptian classic, the inventive twist at Alban Swissra offers a mouthwatering fusion of flavors that is worth trying for anyone who appreciates cheese and enjoys exploring new culinary creations.
Popular Egyptian Foods
Here are a few more popular Egyptian dishes to add to the list:
Sayadiya: A flavorful fish and rice dish seasoned with spices like cumin and turmeric, often topped with caramelized onions and served with a side of tahini sauce.
Mulukhiyah: A thick, green soup made from the leaves of the mulukhiyah plant, cooked with chicken or meat, garlic, and coriander. It is typically served with rice or bread.
Bamya: A stew made from okra cooked with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and often with lamb or beef. It is usually served with rice or bread.
Mahshi Wara’a Enab: Grape leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, herbs, and sometimes minced meat, cooked in a tangy tomato sauce. It is a popular dish during special occasions and festivals.
Fattah: A festive dish made with layers of rice, crispy bread, and lamb or beef, topped with a flavorful tomato-based sauce and garnished with nuts and herbs.
Samak Makli: Fried fish, typically mullet or bass, marinated in a blend of spices and then deep-fried until crispy. It is often served with a side of tahini sauce and Egyptian bread.
Gebna Makleyah: A traditional Egyptian cheese that is typically aged and has a firm texture. It is often served as a table cheese or used in various dishes.
Basma: A sweet dessert made with layers of vermicelli noodles, coconut, and nuts, soaked in a sugary syrup.
Hawawshi: A popular street food dish consisting of a meat-filled pastry made with a mixture of minced meat, onions, and spices baked until golden brown.
These additional dishes add to the rich tapestry of Egyptian cuisine, offering a diverse range of flavors, textures, and culinary experiences.
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