Mouthwatering guide to Delicacies of Traditional Egypt Food.

Before I started travelling abroad, I thought finding Veg food outside India was the biggest problem. That is not true entirely. I find tastier vegetarian food and multiple options in the Middle East than in Europe. As for non-veg food, Ashrith prefers Middle eastern over Mediterranean seafood. Turkey takes first place for both veg and Non-veg food, and second place goes to Egypt. 

This post is all about vegetarian and non-vegetarian delicacies you must try beyond Kababs in Egypt.

Index –

Best Egyptian traditional delicacies

Egyptian salad and potato curry in a white plate kept on table
  • Three best Vegetarian food – Mulukhiya with Ash (Eish), Taameya, Mixed veg curry with potatoes.
  • Three best Non-veg food – Charcoal-grilled chicken, chicken cooked with Mulukhiya, Chicken slice with Humus and Ash. ( All chicken! Yup. read ahead to know why)
  • Favourite beverage Hibiscus tea AKA.Kadkade (of course) & Orange Juice. Egyptians love their tea sweet! Like candy sweet. You make sure to ask for less sugar or without sugar tea.
  • Honorary mentions -Baba Ganoush as a dip, Fresh fruits like Strawberry in Bawiti, Banana in Luxor, Fava Beans curry, Egyptian Dolma, Ash Bread, Rice with Vermicelli and roasted duck.

Things to keep in mind while trying Egyptian food

Avoid seafood anywhere other than the coastal areas. Ashrith tried a fish dish in Aswan; it was terrible and didn’t seem to be fresh. Our guide Mahmoud says he likes seafood only in Hurghada.

Egyptians prefer Arabic coffee, which is similar to Turkish coffee. Both are black coffee with a pinch of Cardamom. Being a coffee lover, I neither liked Turkish coffee nor Arabic coffee; I find the flavours of cardamom overpower the Coffee aroma.

A bit about Egypt’s dining Etiquette

Indian travellers sitting on floor eating lunch with local Egyptians

Sitting on the floor and using hands for eating – I am busy devouring veg delicacies and Ashrith is worrying about how to finish that extra elaborate meals at Bawiti.

  • There are two similar things in Indian & Egyptian etiquettes. Firstly – Egyptians eat with their hands. If you are not comfortable doing it the Egyptian way, you may ask for spoons and knives at restaurants. Secondly, Egyptians sit on the carpet on their knees and keep the plates and food on a low height table in the common household.
  • When you are at a local Egyptian’s house, do not use your left hand. Not even to pick a fruit or a piece of starters – they consider it rude/unsophisticated.
  • You may be given pate for yourself, but dishes like rice, bread, salads, and dips are placed in common bowls. For example, everyone dips their bread for the sauce in one bowl. It is normal to have a common bowl for a group of diners in Egypt.

Sipping my 3rd Kadkade in one hour at Bawiti, thinking “How many more kadkade they will make me drink before lunch?

Indian lady traveller wearing Poncho sipping hibiscus tea sitting on a red sofa inside a local house at Bawiti
  • You will be served Kadkade before and after meals (most of the time). Egyptians find it strange when someone says no to Kadkade. They can not believe that someone can say no to it, So when you say no, be prepared to face many questions.
  • You won’t get Pork in Egypt like in most Islamic countries. Vegetarians and people who do not eat beef may have to be double sure of the soup so that the broth is not of any meat or beef.

We found the best Egyptian food at Bawiti

Indian travellers sitting on floor eating lunch with local Egyptians devouring roasted duckand bread

From left – Ashrith, Me, Ahmed(Chef+drifer at desert night camp), One more Ahmed (the one who drove us from Cairo to Bawiti), our host Ragab, our beloved Mamdouh

In any part of the world, village food tastes the best. So on our way to the White desert, we stopped at Bawiti village for lunch. When our guide Mamadouh mentioned lunch, I expected a simple meal of Aish bread with sauce or dip. Instead, we were shocked to see that five-course meal on our table later – This is the best meal we have ever had outside India. It consisted of –

Roz Bil Shareya ( Rice with Vermicelli) + Roasted Duck +White Beans soup + Mulukhiya (Spinach Garlic gravy for the bread)+ Mixed Veg curry with Potato + Egyptian Bread Ash. 

What is wow about that Egyptian Salad?

Lage streel plate containing smaller plates of Egyptian salad,soup nd aish bread
BREAD AISH +SALAD+FAVA BEANS SOUP

What can you expect in a village that is hundreds of kilometres away from the river Nile’s fertile land? Frozen and not so fresh vegetables for the salad. Right? Nope. The tomato, Cucumber, and Parsley were fresh and juicy as if they had been plucked from the garden just then. The region is Bahariya “Oasis”, So they do grow a fair amount of fresh veggies.

Yummy and healthy White Beans soup

White bwl of soup with white fawa beans floating
WHITE BEANS SOUP

The salad was followed by a nonspicy, tasty soup of white Fava Beans. Steamed softened beans with the broth of onions, pepper and cumin and salt ( This is all I could taste and guess – but there were more flavours in it)

This lunch was filled with many “first time in my life” experiences. First, we were dining at the low height table, sitting on the floor to taste the authentic homemade Egyptian dishes at a local’s house. We got used to the sharing bowls sooner. Still, the troublesome part was watery Mulukhiya running off the bread every time I lifted the bread off the bowl.

Green colour liquidy dip made of spinach and garlic in Egypt

Mulukhiya

Unlike our chutneys and curries for Chapati, the Mulukhiya is very watery. It looked more like juice than the sauce. Every time I dipped my bread Aish into the Mulukhiya, it ran over. When I bite the bread, I could hardly feel the taste of Mulukhiya. Mamdouh noticing my struggle showed me the Egyptian way of eating the bread. First, hold the edge of the bread with three fingers to fold it to make cat ears. Then, dip it in the bowl to fill the cat ear with a fair amount of sauce/dip and eat. That is when the flavours of garlic, pepper, and spinach kind of leaves exploded in my mouth and became the “Best Veg dish in Egypt.”

The good but not the best Roasted duck

Rosted duck smeared with lots of masala and butter
ROASTED DUCK & MIXED VEG CURRY

Ashrith says –

” Our host Ragab had expected me and Mamdouh to finish one big duck. I can easily eat three chicken leg pieces, but one Duck leg piece was heavy though there was no filling inside. The aroma of Cardamom, Pepper and Cumin Powder, had hit my nostrils already. I could taste a masala flavour inside and outside. This was good, but not the best, though. Maybe I am more of a chicken person than the duck.”

Grilled Chicken & Fresh fruits for dinner

The afternoon meal was elaborate and delicious. We thought our driver+chef Ahmed might heat the Aish bread and give it with Baba Ganoush, Hummus, and of course Kadkade. But, instead, he surprised us with a four-course meal of freshly cooked Roz Bil Shareya, Potato+ carrot+Tomato curry, Grilled chicken, and fresh Strawberries! For a change, pre and post-dinner were followed by Arabic coffee, not the Kadkade!

Best places to eat in Giza

 Giza’s “not so clean” streets had scared us to try any food there. I felt as if the streets there said: ” You dare try my street food.” So we decided to stick to the restaurants suggested by our guide Ibrahim only. One such restaurant was Abou Shakra – Local’s pick and heaven for tourists seeking authentic and hygienic Egyptian food. 

Reading their Menu, we realised the restaurant is running since 1947. People even have done some studies on how are they still running the business for so long. The reason for their success is clear- keeping Egyptian food authentic without altering anything to it.

Green Vine leaves dish  stuffed with falvoured rice at Giza

Egyptian Dolma

If you are looking for an Egyptian cuisine that is not fried or roasted and not too bland, Dolma should be your choice. I ordered Egyptian Dolma Platter-Vine Leaves stuffed with herbs, tomato sauce and rice with Egyptian Cucumber yoghurt dip. This reminded me of the Dolma I had in Santorini! The difference between Egyptian and Greek lies in the rice and the kind of dip I had. The dip was so good that I could keep licking two bowls even after the dolmas were over.

Charcoal Grilled Chicken

Ashrith says,

“The chicken perfectly grilled with smokey flavour and the orange coloured rice with onion, garlic and spices was a perfect meal. The chicken was juicy and light.”

Why is Pizzahut in Giza unique?

The Pizza hut out of all the eateries in Egypt? Yes. An escape from the scary sand storm, hoping to fill the tummy with something quick & tasty, we entered Pizza hut. Tourists go here to have a pizza with the view. The Pizza slice and Pyramid look similar. We were fortunate to sit and wait for the view, but not to get a clear view! All thanks to the sandstorm.

How was Nubian Village’s food

The taste of Bawiti lunch had remained on our tongue/ mind./ heart and even soul. So, we went to Nubian village searching for equally tasty food after Aswan seafood in our hotel had ruined Ashrith’s expectations.

Onaty Ka ($$$$)- This was suggested by our guide and friend Mahmoud. After a long three hours of strolling in the colourful streets of Nubian village, we came and sat in this restaurant overlooking the Nile. The ambience seemed to be perfect. The Nubian vault, geese on the banks, cool breeze, and shining sun increased our expectations. We looked for dishes similar to what we had in Bawiti – Mixed veg curry, Egyptian rice with vermicelli Mahmoud had warned us already about “not so tasty” seafood in Aswan. Hence Ashrith stuck on to the chicken curry.

Traditional Nubian food in a mud pot

The portions were ample. The ambience was perfect. The service was super slow, and the taste was just fine. It could not meet the level of Bawiti lunch. I neither say go for it or don’t go. This was like any other restaurant you find anywhere else in Egypt – Neither wow, nor eew.

Is Luxor food good?

 At 7.30 PM we realised that we had forgotten to have lunch on that day at Luxor. All we had was fresh orange juice, juicy banana and Taameya. With a growling stomach, we wanted to grab something to eat ASAP. Any authentic Egyptian restaurant would have taken a long time to serve. Taameya being our favourite was not filling enough. Mahmoud, who knows his hometown in and out, took us to Quick Pizza Restaurant.

Pizza without veggies at Luxor

This was our second Pizza in Egypt. It felt strange to have so much Pizza when Egyptian cuisines are a delight. The place was clean; Pizza was tasty and worth the money. If we were not that hungry and willing for something to eat within a few minutes, this might not have been our choice of hotel. Mahmoud says he would have taken to his favourite restaurant, El-Hussain in Hilton street and had some desserts like Konaffa on the way back.

Where to find unique food in Cairo?

Pretty mannequins on a balcony of Old Cairo's old building

You know how the sandstorm spoiled our day if you have already read our other posts. So all our lunch and cafe plans were crushed. Where we intended to go and we will go next time in Egypt are El Fishawi cafe. ($$) & Koshary Abou Tarek.

El Fishawi cafe is open since 1797 and is famous for its old-world charm ambience. We dreamt of going there the day we saw Morgan Freeman sipping Kadkade in this cafe. But the weather had some other plan for us. Koshary Abou Tarek. – Jews, their culture+history in Egypt and their food have gotten us curious always. Plus, we have never had Koshar meals. According to our guide, Ibrahim Koshary Abou Tarek is the place for the best Koshar meals.

Why is Taameya the best Egyptian food?

Taameya AKA Falafel sandwiches: This Fawa bean dish is famous among Egyptians and Greeks. The falafel in Greece comes with yoghurt dip. In Egypt, it is sandwiched with vegetables in Aish Bread. We had it every day when we were in Egypt. This healthy local dish is available throughout Egypt in smaller streetside kiosks and cafes. Be sure of the hygiene before you buy them.

What is Egypt’s national drink?

Tea with a view in Egypt

Hibiscus tea / Kadkade -You name a situation, Egyptians suggests you have a Kadkade. Hungry? Tired? Feeling Cold? Is it too Hot? Bored? Angry? Sad? Post lunch? Pre-dinner?- Kadkade cures everything for Egyptians. It is very refreshing, indeed. Egyptians are sweet-toothed. Each time I asked for sugarless Kadkade, they were surprised to know a human is asking for sugarless tea! If you ask for sugarless, they will put one spoon of sugar at least. So make sure to ask for less sugar or without sugar Kadkade and be specific while explaining it to them.I would call it the “National beverage of Egypt”, So you get it throughout Egypt.

What is Egyptian Breakfast?

All the time, we stuck to our hotel breakfast spread. For foreign tourists, all keep the regular things like Omelettes and cereals. The traditional bread is Aish, but you find hot dog bread and croissants at a few places. In general Egyptian breakfast includes –

  • Aish (Eish) bread, 
  • Domiati cheese (made of cow and buffalo milk) or Areesh cheese (made of skimmed milk), which is super tasty 
  • chicken slices, 
  • Hummus is a paste made using Chickpeas ( Kabul channa in India) and olive oil, 
  • Fresh fruits like orange, banana and some juice. 
  • Kadkade

Which of the above food made you drool? Let us know in the comment section below.

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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