Which are the must-try Traditional foods in Egypt?

Often, people ask me if I could get any Veg food in Egypt. When I say I got plenty of it, they get surprised. When Non-vegetarians ask Ashriths, he slurps, remembering what he devoured and brags about what he ate in the land of Pharaohs.

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

Index –

What are the national foods of Egypt?

Egyptis staple food - salad and potato curry in a white plate kept on table

What is the most famous food in Egypt?

  • The best vegetarian foods are Mulukhiya with Ash (Eish), Taameya, and Mixed veg curry with potatoes.
  • Three best Non-veg food – Charcoal-grilled chicken, chicken cooked with Mulukhiya, and Chicken sliced with Humus and Ash. ( All chicken! Yup. Read ahead to know why)
  • My favourite beverage – is 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 Food in Egypt

Avoid seafood anywhere other than the coastal areas. Ashrith tried a fish dish in Aswan; it was terrible and didn’t seem 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.

What is the dining etiquette in Egypt?

Indian travellers sitting on floor to eat Egypt food with local Egyptians

Sitting on the floor and using my 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.

Why can’t you eat with your left hand in Egypt?

  • Do not use your left hand when you are at a local Egyptian’s house. 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.

What is the best drink in Egypt?

Indian lady traveller wearing Poncho sipping hibiscus tea sitting on a red sofa inside a local house at Bawiti

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

  • 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.

Best food in Egypt at Bawiti

Indian travellers sitting on floor to eat Egypt food with local Egyptians

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.

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. 

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 had ever had outside India. It consisted of –

What is wow about that Egyptian Salad?

Lage streel plate containing smaller plates of Egypt staple food salad,soup and aish bread
BREAD AISH +SALAD+FAVA BEANS SOUP

Is Egypt food good?

Yes, and it is surprising. What can you expect in a village hundred 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 just been plucked from the garden. The region is Bahariya “Oasis”, So they grow a fair amount of fresh veggies.

vegetarian food in Egypt - White bowl of soup with white fawa beans floating
WHITE BEANS SOUP

The best Staple Food of Egypt- Yummy and healthy 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 dined 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 sharing bowls sooner. Still, the troublesome part was watery Mulukhiya running off the bread every time I lifted the bread off the bowl.

The Best Vegetarian Food in Egypt

Vegetarian food in Egypt -Green colour liquidy dip made of spinach and garlic.

Mulukhiya

Unlike our chutneys and curries for Chapati, the Mulukhiya is very watery. It looked more like juice than sauce. Every time I dipped my bread Aish into the Mulukhiya, it ran over. When I bit the bread, I could hardly feel the taste of Mulukhiya. Mamdouh noticing my struggle showed me the Egyptian way of eating 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’s 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

Can you believe this is freshly cooked food in an isolated desert of Egypt?

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!

What’s the most famous restaurant in Egypt?

 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 pick and heaven for tourists seeking authentic and hygienic Egyptian food. 

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

Green Vine leaves dish  stuffed with falvoured rice at Giza

Egyptian Dolma

If you are looking for 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 my kind of dip. 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. As 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 a 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 remained on our tongues/minds./hearts, and even souls. 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 a 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 and Egyptian rice with vermicelli. Mahmoud had warned us already about “not so tasty” seafood in Aswan. Hence Ashrith stuck onto 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 nor don’t go. This was like any other restaurant you find anywhere else in Egypt – Neither wow, nor eeeew.

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

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

El Fishawi cafe has been open since 1797 and is famous for its old-world charm ambience. We dreamt of going there when 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. Our guide, Ibrahim, says 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, and Egyptians suggest 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 was asking for sugarless tea! If you ask for sugarless, they will put one spoonful 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?

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 oranges, bananas and some juice. 
  • Kadkade

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

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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