I’ve kind of shied away from talking about my Egyptian background on this blog for some reason. I’ve made small references to it every now and then (like here and here), but I’ve never made a post explicitly about Egyptian culture – until now. So, without further ado, here are 13 Egyptian foods you need to try.
Koushari (pronounced koo-sha-ree) is known as the national dish of Egypt. This pasta, rice, lentil, and onion dish is eaten all around the country. But there is one important contingency: YOU MUST EAT KOUSHARI WITH THE SPICY TOMATO SAUCE. There will always be a small container of sauce on the side of any koushari dish. Use it.
No, this is not the Hungarian goulash stew or anything of the sort. The Egyptian goulash (pronounced GOOL-esh) is a dish made with several flaky layers of phyllo dough – this is basically the only unifying factor between the sweet and savory versions of the dish. Sweet goulash is filled with nuts and honey and is quite similar to Greek baklava. Savory goulash is typically filled with meat or cheese and is just as tasty as the sweet one.
Egyptian macarona (pronounced mah-kah-roh-nah) is also quite deceiving to foreigners, as it looks quite similar to Italian lasagna. However, when you take a bite, there is the shocking, but delicious flavor of cinnamon. There are two versions of macarona – béchamel, which is a creamy white sauce, and tomato. Both are absolutely delicious.
These little grape-leaf rolls, known to Egyptians as machi (pronounced MAH-shee) are probably my favorite Egyptian food. The grape leaves are filled with an herby rice and meat (typically ground beef or lamb) mixture. They are NOT at all the same as the Greek dolmades, even though they may appear to be similar on the outside. The herbs used in the filling are quite different, and the Greek dolmades tend to be vegetarian.
Kofta (pronounced kohf-tah) are basically Egyptian meatballs. They are elongated into ovals, usually grilled, and have an interesting combination of spices (including parsley and cinnamon – yes, Egyptians love their cinnamon) but, at its base, it’s a meatball.
Fool (pronounced very similarly to the English word “fool” but with an elongated “oo” sound) is a slow-cooked soup made from dried fava beans. It is flavored with tahini, lemon juice, tomatoes, and cucumbers, and it is typically eaten by scooping it out of a bowl with pita bread.
This slimy green soup can be quite intimidating to foreigners, and I’ve found that it’s pretty much a hit or miss. I recently found out that the plant used to make molokhaya (pronounced moh-loh-KHEY-yah) is called “Jew’s mellow” in English – ever heard of it? Me neither.
Aats (pronounced AH-ats) is another slow-cooked Egyptian soup – but this one is made of lentils. It is also eaten with pita bread as the only utensil. They have dishes that taste quite similar to this in Moroccan and Russian cultures as well.
Ok, you know all this hype with falafel lately? Well tameyah (pronounced tah-ah-may-yah) is the tastier version of falafel. Tameyah are spheres of ground fresh fava beans that are pan-fried. Please note that when you bite into tameyah, it will be bright green, not brown like falafel.
Ruz Eb Laban
And now we’ve reached the sweet section of the list! But don’t worry, we haven’t lost the Egyptian obsession with cinnamon. This dish, ruz eb laban (pronounced rooz-ub-leh-ben), is the Egyptian take on rice pudding (the name means “rice and milk”). Of course, be sure to add an alarming amount of cinnamon on the top of your serving before eating it.
Kahk (pronounced KAH-hk – make sure the “h” sound is pronounced and kind of clear your throat as you end the word lol) is one of the popular Egyptian holiday cookies. But this seemingly-simple cookie is actually quite difficult to make. The cookie itself is only made with clarified butter, which gives it a nutty flavor, before it is topped off with a ton of powdered sugar.
As another one of my favorite Egyptian foods, basboosa (pronounced bes-boo-seh) definitely had to make it onto this list. Pictured in the very first image of this post, this sweet, syrup-infused semolina cake is absolutely delicious! I would highly recommend.
Last on the list is another Egyptian holiday cookie. Beskawit (pronounced bess-keh-wit) is actually quite simple to make. The hardest part is the shaping of they dough, as these bite-size cookies are typically shaped with a piping bag, so they look like little dollops of frosting with a single chocolate chip cookie on top.
Can you think of any other Egyptian foods you need to try? If so, write them below in the comments!