There are so many food choices available in Egypt. This includes Egyptian restaurants, delicious street food and honey soaked oriental sweets, and you will not be disappointed with the food on your trip to Egypt.
During the Middle Ages, Egyptian cuisine was famous throughout the entire Muslim empire. And now tourists come to Egypt, in search of culinary experiences. Egyptians love to eat - especially when in good company - and can talk endlessly about the taste of the dishes served, even if they are very simple. Like most Arab countries, in Egypt, the best food can be found in private homes. Restaurants generally serve the most popular Egyptian dishes such as kebabs, mezze or stuffed pigeon. Trendy restaurants in Cairo serve typical national dishes such as fatta (a mixture of rice, bread and garlic) and molokhia (a soup made of dark green leaves similar to spinach). Often, following dinner, guests are also offered a hookah pipe for relaxation.
Egyptian hospitality and love of good food has a long tradition, the best proof of this are the feast scenes preserved in the images inside tombs and temples all over the country. Some of the dishes consumed in antiquity still appear on Egyptian tables today, such as molokhia soup, roasted goose or salted dried fish (fasich).
In addition to these few "national specialties", Egyptian cuisine has traces of long years of occupation - left behind by the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Ottomans. Later, European colonial influences also joined this mix, giving an eclectic cuisine that remains today.
Though the tables of former kings and sultans were filled with elaborate dishes, modern Egyptian peasants (fellachs) were for the most part too poor to eat so sumptuously. As in other Arab countries, their menu consisted mainly of local vegetables, lentils and beans. Meat was eaten on weekends and on special occasions. As a result of the influx of villagers to cities and towns, such a diet became popular throughout the country. This is how middle-class families who can afford to diversify their basic recipes with more expensive supplements feed themselves. Even in the wealthy districts of Cairo, there are carts on the streets from the morning, where you can buy a hot full sandwich (mashed fava beans) for breakfast.
"If someone is standing on your doorstep, do not close the door to him" and "Give your guest food even if you are starving" - these are two of the many proverbs where hospitality is seen as a duty, and food and drink is always offered to everyone who visits. The Egyptian family, regardless of their status, is always ready to treat their guests with several types of salads, as well as vegetable and meat dishes.
The guests also have a role to play: they must refuse first, but eventually, after persuasion, they should agree to eat. They are expected to praise what they eat without over-analyzing the contents of the plate. They are always given the best morsels of fish or meat selected from the center of the platter.
Full (fava beans), cooked and eaten with bread, is the staple of the Egyptian menu. It is usually eaten for breakfast or as a snack between meals. In some houses it is also served for lunch or dinner. Those who cannot afford anything else eat full several times a day. At first glance, the brown thick bean stew may not look and smell very tasty, but if you get to know it, you can start to love is and even get addicted to it.
Fava beans are a staple in another popular dish in Egypt - tameya (fried balls). For lunch, order another dish often sold by street vendors - koshery. It’s a delicious mixture of pasta, lentils, rice and chickpeas, served with fried onions and garnished with a small amount of spicy tomato sauce.
The set table is filled with mezze - cold and hot sauces and salads that reflect the character of Egypt and the entire Middle East. Mezze is served with drinks as a light snack before the main course. With such a variety of dishes, mezze can also serve as an independent, light and pleasant meal.
Egyptians love to hang out at home, on terraces or in cafes, where they joke, laugh and chat with friends while enjoying the taste of salads and snacks. They eat everything from hummus (chickpea puree) through to pickled vegetables and mahshi (stuffed vegetables).
Meat has always been a dish reserved for the rich and aristocrats here. The poorer Egyptians rely on a menu of cereals, broad beans, beans and lentils, and they save meat for Fridays (non-working days) and religious holidays. The most important Muslim holiday during which the poorest Egyptians eat meat is Eid al-Kebir, also known as Eid al-Adha. This holiday falls on the tenth day of the last month of the Muslim calendar. To commemorate the prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his own son, families that can afford it sacrifice sheep or lamb. The animal, which should be fat and young, is killed according to the ritual and roasted on a spit. Usually, according to the command of Islam, part of the meat is given to the poor. Sheep, goats and cows are also killed on other important occasions - such as the birth of a child, the purchase of a new car, the purchase of an apartment, or the completion of a house.
Ramadan, the fasting month from sunrise to sunset, is another opportunity to enrich your menu with meat. In the evenings, families visit each other to celebrate the end of the next fasting day at the table with plenty of food and sweets.
Many Egyptian recipes do not specify what type of meat should be used, as traditionally only lamb and mutton were available, sometimes they use camel, goat or gazelle. While Islam forbids eating pork, beef and veal are widely available in Egypt. The meat is generally baked like a kebab or kofta, or stewed.
A meal consumed at home traditionally ends with seasonal fruit. Most restaurants also offer a European-style dessert such as ice cream. The Egyptian menu offers many delicious sweet dishes, although they are not usually eaten as a dessert. Mahalabija is a milk cream thickened with corn flour and ground rice. Roz bi-laban is a creamy rice pudding, decorated with finely chopped almonds and walnuts. A much more sophisticated dish is om ali, dipped in hot, sweetened milk, pita bread is served warm with raisins and nuts. Some sources say that this dessert came to Egypt with Miss O'Malley, the Irish mistress of Chedyv Ismail.
Sweets are usually served at larger celebrations (weddings, births and during the month of Ramadan), and not for dessert with a regular meal. Probably the most famous sweet dish of the east is baklava, a strudel stuffed with nuts or almonds, topped with sweet syrup. More popular in Egypt are basbusa, semolina cake with syrup and nuts, and kunafa, a cake stuffed with thick whipped cream, ricotta cheese or cream and nuts. Most of the sweets are sold in patisseries, but the home-made ones are usually the tastiest. The lady of the house, who can boast of the ability to prepare the best - baklava or kunafa - often passes the recipe to her daughters.
The Egyptians say, "If you drink the water from the Nile, you will certainly return to Egypt." It sounds nice, but unfortunately the Nile water is not really drinkable and it’s safer to drink bottled water or fresh fruit juices. Colorful cafes, where juices are served, attract tourists with fruit decorations such as pyramids of strawberries or oranges and baskets with mangoes. Freshly squeezed juice is very cheap and extremely refreshing. The offer usually depends on the season, but sugarcane and lime juice are available practically all year round. Lime juice is usually sweetened before serving, unless the customer asks not to.
Usually, you can also drink orange juice squeezed from winter or summer oranges, carrots and guava. Depending on the season, you can buy red pomegranate, strawberry, and thick mango juice. In summer, street vendors encourage passersby for a glass of tamarind or licorice drink.
According to the recommendations of the Koran, Muslims should not drink alcohol. And it cannot be bought in Egypt in stores or supermarkets. Alcohol can be bought in hotels, western-style bars and restaurants - except in Ramadan, when lots of bars close for all Ramadan.
The local beer produced is called Stella. The more expensive grades of Stella Export and Stella Premium are stronger, as are the better quality Sakkara beer. Egypt produces its own champagne under the name Aida. It also produces white and red wine called Grand Marquis. Imported wine is much more expensive than locally produced wine.
You should aim to try as many of these foods and drink while on your Egypt tours, you certainly won’t regret it and it will leave you with some great memories of the land of the pharaohs. You will want to return time and time again.
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