Egyptian Food Facts for Travelers
What Food to Try in Egypt
Many Travellers to Egypt wonder about what type of Egyptian Food they should Try. Egyptian food is as diverse and rich as its history. The most obvious fact is that Egypt is a country with a history that extends to thousands of years. Egypt is located in international crossroads and the fact is that Egyptian food has been influenced by several cultures and civilizations over the centuries. This resulted in a unique Egyptian cuisine with a long list of popular ancient and modern mix of dishes and beverages that have evolved to be Egyptian.
If you are planning to visit Egypt, you need to try some of its rich popular common foods and drinks during your travel or you would be missing a unique experience. You can find here a paragraph or two of information and facts about each of the most popular Egyptian foods. Here is a list of popular foods and dishes in Egypt.
Most Popular Traditional Egyptian Foods
- Falafel (Tamiya) (Fried Fava Beans or Chickpeas)
- Ful Medames (Slow Cooked fava beans)
- Egyptian Bread (Baladi)
- Egyptian Feteer Meshaltet (Layered Bread)
- Kushari (or Koshary)
- Mahshi or Dolma (stuffed vegetables)
- Shawarma (Chicken, Beef, or lamb)
- Waraq Inab (Stuffed vine leaves)
- Hawawshi (Baked Meat in Bread)
- Molokhya, Mulukhiyah, or Molokhia (Green Soup)
- Egyptian Fattah (or Fettah) (Rice, Bread, and Meat)
- Hamam Mahshi (Stuffed Pigeons)
- Mombar (Rice-Stuffed Sausages)
Egyptian Food Facts: Food Safety and Nutrition Value: Is it Healthy and Safe to Eat?
The answer here depends on what you mean by healthy or safe. If be safe we are talking about not getting sick, then you need to stay away from street foods, and pick only reputable restaurants and you will be okay. Egyptian food is so diverse that you can find different types of ‘healthy’: Organic, vegan, made of fresh ingredients, or made with certain ingredients that you consider suitable for your diet. You need to be informed about the main ingredients of each dish and how it is made. I give you this information here.
The listing below give you some facts not only about the type of foods, but also whether these food are common in breakfast, lunch, or dinner. I also mention when a food is more common in certain events, celebrations, or social activities.
Egyptian Breakfast Foods
- Falafel (Tamiya or Taamiya) (Fried Fava Beans or Chickpeas)
- Shakshuka (or Shakshouka) (Eggs with Tomato Sauce)
- Ful Medames (Slow Cooked Fava Beans)
- Pastirma (Air Dried Meat)
- Halawa Tahiniya
- Rumi Cheese
- Egyptian White Cheese
- Egyptian Omelet Igga
- Egyptian Mish (old cheese) with tomatoes and hot oil
- Egyptian Bread (Baladi)
- Egyptian Feteer Meshaltet
- Egyptian Folk Bread with Sesame (Simit)
- Arabic Pita Bread
- Bataw or Battaw (Farmers’ bread)
- Fino Bread (Egyptian Baguette)
Egyptian Snacks, Appetizers, Soups, and Salads
- Yogurt with Cucumber with Garlic
- Sambosa (or Samosa)
- Egyptian Torshi (Pickles)
- Lentil Soup
- Baba Ghanouj
- Tahina (Tahini)
- Pickled Eggplants
Egyptian Lunch and Dinner Foods
Rice and Pasta Dishes
- Kushari (or Koshary)
- Egyptian Fattah (or Fettah)
- Bashamel Macaroni with Meat
- Rice with Green Peas
- Pasta with Sausages
- Rice with Vermicelli and Green Peas
Stuffed Vegetables and Vegetable Dishes
- Mahshi or Dolma (Stuffed Vegetables)
- Waraq Inab (Stuffed Vine Leaves)
- Molokhya, Mulukhiyah, or Molokhia
- Fried Eggplant
- Mombar (Rice-Stuffed Sausages)
- Maqloobah or Maqluba
- Yellow lentil and Rice
- Baked Spicy Chickpeas
- Moussaka or Mosakkaa
- Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
- Besara (or Bisara)
- Egyptian Bamia or Bamya (Okra)
- Chicken with Freekeh
- Freek (or Freekah) with Vegetables
- Roasted Meat with Green Peas and Rice or Freekah
- Roast Chicken with Vegetables and Freekah
Meats and Poultry
- Shawarma (Chicken, Beef, or Lamb)
- Hawawshi (Baked Meat in Bread)
- Musahab (Pulled Chicken)
- Kabab (or Kebab) an Kofta
- Alexandrian Liver Sandwich
- Egyptian Sausage
- Hamam Mahshi (Stuffed Pigeons)
- Kofta in the Oven
- Daoud Bacha Kafta and Rice Kofta
- Grilled Whole Lamb
- Grilled Pigeons
- Shish Tawook
- Egyptian Kamounia
- Egyptian Kaware
Local Egyptian Food to Try
The above list is an exhaustive list of most popular Egyptian foods that you can pick from if you want to eat like a local Egyptian. Some of these foods and drinks go way back to the time of the Pharaohs such as Fesikh and Battaw Bread and others have been adopted by Egyptians as a result of interactions with other cultures over the centuries like Kabab or Kabsah.
Some foods have evolved locally for certain events such as Halawiyat El Moulid (sweets of the birthday) that were made for celebrating the birthday of the prophet of Islam. They are still considered seasonal sweets for that event. Other foods were part of political Egyptian history such as MoloKhia.
Here are some paragraphs about Egyptian foods so you can pick which food you may want to try while visiting Egypt.
Egyptian Breakfast Food Facts
Falafel (Tamiya or Taamiya) طعمية
Falafel or Tamiya is a fried round disc shaped or ball shaped crispy vegetarian dough. It is made in Egypt of fava beans, but sometimes it is made of Chickpeas (or of a mix of both) which is more a Lebanese or Syrian style. It is a popular food in the Middle East and around the world.
In Egypt, Falafel is usually served in breakfast with Ful Medammis. The only problem with these two foods is that it may not be a good choice for those allergic to peanuts as they come from the same plant family, so you may need to check with your doctor if you have peanuts allergy.
The deep frying of Falafel in Egypt and the added spices gives a unique and crispy taste. It is always best eaten hot coming out of the frying pan, as after it cools down, it may lose its crispiness. It can be eaten with Tahini, Hummus, Baba Ganouj, pickles, or other salads in a Sandwich or just by themselves.
Shakshuka (or Shakshouka) شكشوكة
Egyptian Shakshuka is one of the many variations of this dish that is popular across the Middle East. In Egypt it is made out of eggs mixed in tomato and tomato sauce and maybe garlic and peppers with spices on top.
A deep frying pan is used to mix spices, tomato, and tomato. Eggs are then fried on top of this thick sauce. The taste and energy in this cozy dish makes it a great candidate for breakfast. It is usually eaten with Egyptian flat bread or Baladi bread.
Ful Medames (Slow Cooked Fava Beans) فول مدمس
This dish of slow cooked fava beans goes back to Ancient Egypt times. It is usually served with olive oil or vegetable oil and with many variations of add-ons including herbs, fried or boiled eggs, tomatoes, tahini, hummus, and many other variations that sometimes may include sausage! In its simplest form it is salted and soaked in vegetable oil.
For many Egyptians Ful Medames (or Medammis) is breakfast. It is deeply rooted in the Egyptian breakfast culture. It is served in a plate to be eaten with Egyptian bread especially Baladi bread or in sandwiches that may sometimes have Falafel added to the sandwich. Restaurants and cooks are always innovating new ideas around this staple food in Egypt.
Pastirma (or Bastirma in Egyptian dialect): The air dried meat
Originally adopted from Turkish cuisine, this delicious dried spiced meat is a favorite staple of Egyptian breakfast and supper meals. It may be close to Pastrami, but it is different in how it is made and how it tastes.
It is made of beef in Egypt, but in some areas it is also made of lamb or even camel meat. The meat is usually salted and hanged to dry in air for a while and then pressed and left to dry again. It is coated with edible paste with lots of garlic. This process takes about a month and maybe this why it is relatively expensive.
The taste is delicious and it is usually mixed with scrambled eggs or omelets, and can also be eaten separately. It can be eaten without cooking, but many health advisors have recommended cooking it first (by frying separately or with eggs for example) as this will kill germs that may grow as a result of improper storage that can cause inappropriate levels of moisture.
I would definitely recommend this for you to try if you are visiting Egypt. You can buy it in grocery stores or you may find it in the breakfast menu of many restaurants.
These are made of sesame seed paste or butter mixed with sugar that is usually shaped into blocks. It can be mixed with pistachios, chocolate, or other types of nuts. In Egypt, it is made into sandwiches or eaten as a desert after a meal.
Try it in a sandwich after breakfast if you are looking to get more some energy for the day. Some Egyptians mix it with Kishta (paste of heavy milk cream). I personally felt it was too heavy for me. When I tried it though, I felt I could run a marathon or something.
Rumi Cheese (also Roumy or Romy)
The name is derived from ‘Roman’ as it may have been historically imported from Roman Empire and has evolved in Egypt. This hard cheese is another staple in Egyptian cuisine. It is made of a mix of cow and buffalo milk with black pepper and is fermented for 3 to 6 months giving it a sharp pungent and unique taste. The best type is the aged one (sometimes up to 12 years aging) and it is the most expensive. It is relatively an expensive cheese as production process take a long time.
It is usually eaten in sandwiches or as a favourite food on breakfast table. It is stuffed into melted cheese sandwiches. You need to be careful with this cheese if you are trying to control your cholesterol though as it is made of fatty dairy. One or two slices wouldn’t heart.. Well, this is what I told myself when I enjoyed this cheese during my last visit to Egypt.
Egyptian White Cheese
This cheese goes back to Ancient Egypt time too, and it is considered one of the oldest types of cheese. It is made in different flavors and versions but it is white and creamy in all cases. The ‘Gibna Bidaa’ or ‘White cheese’ is popular food on breakfast and supper meals.
One version is lower in salt and called ‘Tallaga’ or ‘fridge style’. Another is even creamier and called ‘double cream’. The Baramili (made in barrels) is more salty and has the flavour of hot red or green pepper. Domiati was first made in the city of Damietta and is salty and also has the green pepper taste. For a more healthy choice you can try the law salt white cheese or the most ancient known type: the Areesh (no salt) type.
It is eaten with olives, cucumber, tomatoes, or even mixed with Ful Medames in breakfast dishes. The white cheese, olive oil, mint, and tomato mix is a popular dish. It is also used as a spread cheese in sandwiches.
These pastries are made out of dough stuffed or topped with cheese, vegetables, beef, chicken, spinach, zaater (thyme), and more. They come in all shapes and sizes. It is used as a breakfast food, an appetizer, or as finger food in different events. Many of these versions may have come from Syria and Lebanon, and over the years they became Egyptian favorites.
Some Fatayer are made flat in pizza style with mix of toppings, and some are stuffed with different types of stuffing. Restaurants that offer Fatayer are abundant in Cairo and across Egypt. Check the ones with high ratings and go for the experience.
Egyptian Omelet Igga (or Egga)
This delicious frittata that is made of eggs is mixed with browned onions (or just onions), vegetables, some flour, and herbs and parsley. The greener the color, the more authentic it is. It is started on stove and finished in oven. It can be made mild, or spicy as needed. Most people will eat it hot or at room temperature, but it can also be eaten cold out of the fridge.
This dish can be served as a full breakfast with your choice of juice or coffee (or both).
Egyptian Mish (Old Fermented Cheese)
Do you want to try something strange when visiting Egypt? Try Mish! This cheese is made of fermented old cheese such as white salty Egyptian cheese and Rumi cheese or usually a mix of both. It can be fermented for years. It was found in Ancient Egyptian tombs!
Its taste is sharp and pungent. Make sure you get it from a trusted source or from a licensed producer (usually in grocery stores), as wrong methods of fermenting can lead to a toxic product.
Egyptian Food Facts: Egyptian Breads
Egyptian Bread (Baladi)
This bread is an iconic Egyptian foods. It has been around for over 5000 years and it is deeply rooted in Egyptian culture. Named ‘Aish Baladi’ or ‘locally made living’ or ‘country’s living’ as per literal translation as it reflects the importance of this bread for the daily living of locals both rich and poor. It tastes different from other types of bread and is usually found with most Egyptian meals. It is best eaten with breakfast foods such as Falafel, Ful, eggs, and cheese. It is also eaten with many of lunch and dinner foods.
The Aish Baladi is made of whole wheat flour, bran, salt, and yeast. It tastes great especially when fresh from the oven. It can also be made by mixing the above ingredients with white flour and would look lighter in color. Today it is baked in modern commercial ovens, but in countryside and rural areas it is still baked in stone or mud built farmers’ ovens.
If you want to really enjoy this bread try to get it fresh out of the oven or as close as possible to that.
Egyptian Feteer Meshaltet
This is one of the oldest Egyptian foods that goes back thousands of years and was found in some Pharaonic tombs. It is simply a layered pastry made out of dough and ghee or butter and baked in high temperature ovens. The authentic version is made at countryside farms where you can find the best ghee and flour quality. Some historians say it is the original version of croissant as it has established the thin layers concept in pastry.
It is usually made plain where it can be used as bread with other foods. Some versions include fillings that can be savory or sweet. Examples of fillings include ground beef, cheese, vegetables, chocolate, honey, and other type of fillings.
When Egyptians offer you Feteer Meshaltet it is a sign they are really welcoming you. The original version (the plain one with no fillings) is usually served with white cheese, Mish, Honey, and Ful.
Some Egyptian restaurants are famous for this type of pastry and if you have the time I would recommend you stop by one of these restaurants and have a Feteer Meshaltet experience.
Egyptian Folk Bread with Sesame (Simit)
This is Egyptian style pretzels. This crispy pastry is made of flour, sugar, salt, butter, milk, and yeast. It has the distinguished pretzel shape and sesame is usually sprinkled on the surface. In some areas it is sold as street food, but you can also find in many bakeries.
Simit (or Simeet) is usually served with boiled eggs, cheese, honey, and special egyptian spice mix called Dokka (or Doaa). It is a staple in a specific Egyptian event called ‘Sham El Nessim’ which celebrates the beginning of spring season every year. It is an ancient feast that goes back to Ancient Egypt.
Arabic Pita bread
This is the famous flat bread that may have originated in Lebanon or Syria, but has become a staple in Egyptian cuisine. It is most popular with many of the sandwiches made by restaurants including the famous Shawarma sandwiches, Falafel sandwiches, Kebab or Kofta wraps, and many others.
It can be made with white flour or whole wheat flour (or a mix of both). Its thin layered dough makes it a favorite container that tastes great while not being too much in your mouth. This leaves enough space to savor the sandwich filling.
The only problem with this bread is that it gets old and starts losing the great taste in few days. This is why I like to keep it in the freezer and only heat the ones I am eating.
Bataw or Battaw (Farmers Bread)
Bataw bread is mostly popular at countryside in Egypt and usually made by farmers. It can be made by corn flour, wheat flour, or barley flour.
It is usually baked in farmers’ ovens and starts as inflated ball like shape that is later flattened with a special wooden ladle. It has a crusty taste.
It is usually served with white cheese, honey, eggs, and other breakfast staples.
Fino Bread (Egyptian Baguette)
Eish Fino or Fino bread is one of the most commonly consumed breads in Egypt. This is a long shaped baguette style bread made of white flour and used for sandwiches in most cases. It tastes soft and smooth and has a filling that many people like to remove before making a sandwich.
Egyptian Food Facts: Snacks, Appetizers, Soups, and Salads
Yogurt with cucumber (+mint and garlic)
This dish is served as salad or as a dip. It is yogurt mixed with chopped or minced cucumbers and garlic. Dill and mint are added in some versions. It is popular as a side dish with grilled beef, kabab and Shawarma.
Sambosa (or Samosa)
It is famous around the world as Samosa, but in Egypt it is usually called Sambosa. These triangle shaped pastries may have originally started in India and the thin version are more famous as a Lebanese appetizer. In Egypt it is popular especially in the fasting month of Ramadan as a fast breaking starter.
Sambosa pastries are stuffed with different types of stuffings such as beef, chicken, vegetables, and cheese. My favorite one is the white cheese stuffed ones. In Egypt it is made crispy usually not too thin and not too thick.
Egyptian Torshi (Pickles)
Torshi is the Egyptian pickles and it is known with the same name across many Arabic speaking Middle East countries.
It is made with many types of vegetables but especially cucumbers, carrots, onions, garlic, cauliflower, red peppers, lemons. It comes in mild and spicy (sometimes really hot spicy) flavors.
This cozy time soup is full of intimacy feelings and the perfect companion in a cold winter night or as a lunch or dinner starter. Egyptians make it with yellow or red lentils or a mix of both.
It is a vegetarian soup where lentils are mixed with olive oil, diced carrots, diced onions, garlic, celery, potato, garlic, common, turmeric, and other spices. It can be made mild or spicy by adding hot peppers, paprika, or chillies.
Baba Ghanouj (or Baba Ganoush)
This is a favorite dip and side dish in Egypt. It is made of roasted eggplant chopped and mixed garlic, lemon, tahini, olive oil, and spices. This dish may have originated in Lebanon or Turkey, but it has become famous across the world and a staple in many Middle Eastern countries including Egypt
It can be served with breakfast, lunch or dinner. It is served as a dip with Arabic or Baladi bread, as a side dish with Kabab, Ful and Falafel, or Shawarma.
This sesame seeds paste is now popular across the world, but is has its special role in Egyptian cuisine. It is called Tehina in Egypt and it is mixed with lemon and salt and usually served as starter or a side dish and a dip with Kabab, Kofta, added to Shawarma sandwiches, Falafel and Ful sandwiches and plates.
These delicious pickles are made from finger type eggplants or as they are called ‘Bitingan’ in Egyptian Arabic. Pickled eggplants is called ‘Bitingan Mikhallil’ in Egyptian Arabic.
It is pickled by cutting it open or into slices and stuffing with garlic paste, cumin, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and lemon. Chilli or hot peppers are added for a spicy taste. It is a welcome side dish at lunch or dinner. A good dish that goes with it is the yogurt with cucumber. It balances that tangy sharp taste from the pickled eggplants.
Egyptian Food Facts: Lunch and dinner Dishes
Rice and Pasta Dishes
Kushari (or Koshari, or Koshary)
This vegetarian dish is the most famous Egyptian dish. The core ingredients are macaroni, spaghetti (optional), vermicelli (optional), rice, brown lentils, and chickpeas (sprinkled on top).
There are two types of sauces that are added to this dish. The first one is specially made tomato sauce and the second one is a spicy sauce with black peppers, chillies or hot peppers, vinegar, garlic, cumin. It can range from mild to extremely spicy according to your preference. Both types of sauces are added on top of the core ingredients but only at serving time. The final ingredient on top of all that are browned crispy onion slices.
The dish has always been considered an inexpensive meal for those who cannot afford to buy dishes with beef or meat, but over the years it became popular among all Egyptians regardless of financial status.
I am not sure why, but a desert of rice pudding or custard is a custom after eating Kothari. Maybe it is to cool down the spicy taste? I like it anyway.
Egyptian Fattah (or Fettah)
This dish is famous across the Middle East with each country having its own version of Fattah. It has nothing to do with Feta cheese as the name Fattah is Egyptian Arabic name. In Egypt it is also attached to the yearly celebration called Eid Kibeer (The big feast) where meat (usually lamb) is stewed and the broth is used to cook the Fattah.
Ingredients include rice, roasted crispy balady or flat bread broken into small pieces, tomato sauce, and beef or chicken broth. It can also be made with Kaware (Cow Cartilage) which is a popular version of Fattah in Egypt. A special topping sauce is added at the end after a quick stir frying: Garlic, salt, vinegar, and, tomato paste. This topping is called ‘Taqliya’ or ‘Taaliya’ and it is maybe the most important flavoring ingredient in making Fattah.
Bechamel Macaroni with Meat
This is an oven baked dish with the bechamel being the unique ingredient. Bechamel is a white sauce that is made from milk, butter (or ghee), flour, chicken broth (optional), salt and spices. Egyptians call it Macaroni in the Oven or Oven Macaroni.
Bechamel Macaroni (or Macaroni with Bechamel) is made of macaroni usually penne type that is layered with minced beef meat and then covered with bechamel and then baked in oven. Bechamel is made first though.
An egg or two are cracked on the top to be baked Bechamel giving the brown color to this dish. It tastes great in my opinion and it is one of my favourite Egyptian dishes that everyone needs to try when visiting Egypt.
Rice with Green Peas and Rice with Vermicelli
Rice is a significant ingredient and main dish in many Egyptian dishes and meals. The Rice with Peas is done in multiple ways. The rice is cooked with green peas. It can be mixes with vermicelli.
It is simple yet delicious Egyptian meal. Another way to do it is to cook the rice separately, cook the green peas with tomato sauce and herbs and then mix them together when served. Carrots can be added to the green peas as an additional flavor.
This is a relatively inexpensive dish that is common in Egyptian homes. It can serve as dinner or lunch, but usually served with chicken or beef to add protein.
Although this dish is originally from the gulf area especially Saudi Arabia, it has become an Egyptian favorite over the years.
It is made of mix of rice, herbs, and spice. Rice used is usually Indian type or Basmati rice. It is also served with grilled or stewed beef or chicken. It is a common dish in parties. It is sometimes made in large serving trays with whole grilled lamb put on top. You can see this version in Bedouin areas and villages.
Egyptian Stuffed Vegetables and Vegetable Dishes
Mahshi or dolma (stuffed vegetables)
This is another Egyptian favorite that is popular across the Middle East. It is known as Mahshi or in some countries as Dolma. The origins of this dish maybe Arabic or Turkish.
Some selected types of vegetables are usually stuffed with rice that is pre-mixed with some greens and herbs. These vegetables includes green peppers (filfil), tomatoes (tamatim), zucchini (called Koosa in Egyptian Arabic), finger eggplants (bitingan ot bidingan)
The rice stuffing is usually made of rice with tomato paste, salt, pepper, dill, parsley, and cilantro. In some versions it is also mixed with minced beef which is the non-vegan version
Waraq (or Warak) Inab ( or Enab) (Stuffed Vine Leaves)
This is another type of Mahshi (Stuffed) vegetables. Vine (Enab) Leaves (Warak) are stuffed (or rolled ) with a specially prepared rice with herbs recipe. This type of Mahshi is popular across the Middle East. In some other countries it is served as a cold salad or side dish. The amount of rice stuffing can also be different from one country to another. The Egyptian version has more rice stuffing and is usually served warm or hot.
The rice stuffing can be mixed with minced beef in some versions and chicken or beef broth is used in the cooking process. If you’re looking for a vegan dish, you need to ask if minced beef or non- vegan broth is used. The flavor of the added herbs, lemon, and mint gives it a unique taste. Some like to put potatoes or garlic at the bottom of the pot to avoid burning the vine leaves. I liked eating that too!
Molokhya, Mulukhiyah, or Molokhia
This dish is based on cooked leaves of the plant Corchorus olitorius. It is known since Ancient Egypt time. Around the 10th century the governor of Egypt decided to forbid it as he thought it is was luring women into committing adultery. The name Molokhia comes from an Arabic word that means: royal.
To cook Molokhia, these leaves are chopped or minced and then cooked in chicken broth. Sometimes it is cooked in other types of broth such as beef, rabbit, or even shrimp or seafood. Some famous restaurants have their own secret recipe of broth mix.
In Egypt the leaves are removed from the stems, left to dry for a short while before chopping or mincing unlike in some other countries where the leaves are left to completely dry. After the cooking process a special fried mix of coriander and garlic is mixed with the cooked Molokhia. This mix is called Taaliya and is the essential ingredient that gives flavor and very distinguished smell to the Molokhia.
Molokhia is usually served with rice, Baladi bread or other type of bread. It is considered as a soup or stew that can be mixed with rice or as a dip with bread. It is also usually served with protein dishes such as chicken, beef, or in sometimes especially in coastal cities like Alexandria with shrimp or fish.
This is another dish that is considered as a national dish by Egyptians. When visiting Egypt, you need to try if you want to understand the Egyptian food culture. Some restaurants will make the last step of frying the Taaliya and adding it to the Moulokhiya and pouring the Molokhiya into serving bowl as a show at the serving table. It is usually a great show to watch and involves a lot of aroma experience from the Taaliya.
This dish can be a main dish for lunch or dinner or can be a side dish with other Egyptian dishes. It is a vegan dish where eggplants are cut into slices and fried in oil. The eggplants are sometimes accompanied with fried green peppers and maybe sliced tomatoes.
Many Egyptian cooks soak the eggplant in water and squeeze it before frying to remove any bitter taste and add salt and spices. Others just sprinkle salt on sliced eggplants and leave for some time to bring the water and bitterness out and to reduce its ability to soak in too much oil when fried. It you are looking for a vegan gluten free dish this is it.
Green salad and yogurt with garlic is usually served with this dish to balance the tangy or sharp taste from the fried eggplants. It can be eaten with Egyptian breads, rice, or with fried potatoes.
Mombar (Rice-Stuffed Sausages)
Mombar is a dish that is very popular in Egypt. Like in case of hot dogs or sausages where meat is encased in animal intestines, Mombar is just that but meat is replaced with a mix of rice and spices.
The stuffing is similar to the one used in other types of Mahshi dishes but with some additional herbs and spices. Mahshi means stuffing and Egyptian Arabic and this is why Mombar is also called Mahshi Mombar. It is thoroughly cooked in a pot first and then quickly fried in oil to give it some brown color and crispy taste. This is a dish that you should eat only from a trusted source or a highly reputed source. Many Egyptians eat it only if it is homemade as some restaurants will make it from bad quality or even plastic based encasings.
Maqloobah or Maqluba
Makluba (as long as you get the sound as close as possible to the Egyptian Arabic name, the spelling doesn’t really matter) is cooked in a pot and then flipped upside down into serving plate and this is where the name comes from: ‘The upside down one’. Layers of ingredients are put into a pot and cooked with added herbs and spices. This dish may have originated in Palestine, Lebanon, or Syria, but it has become and Egyptian staple too.
Maqluba is usually made of Egyptian rice (sometimes with Indian or Basmati rice), eggplant or cauliflower (or both) put in layers. Usually chicken slices are added as a layer, but some versions it can be beef. You can also have a vegan version by eliminating the meat.
In some versions, a variety of other vegetables are added such as green peppers, onions, potatoes, tomatoes, and maybe other vegetables. The eggplant slices are usually put as the bottom layer in the pot then rice is layered above it, then the other ingredients. This helps layered ingredients to maintain the pot shape when it is flipped into serving plate. It is usually kept to cool down for a while after cooking.
Whether it maintains the box or pot shape or falls apart after flipping, it is a tasty dish that I strongly recommend you try when in Egypt. Salads and Yogurt with cucumber are popular side dishes with Maqlubah. And by the way, Egyptians pronounce the ‘k’ or ‘q’ as ‘a’ so it is actually pronounced ‘Maaloobah’. Who cares? It is delicious regardless of the name.
Egyptian Yellow Kushari: lentil and rice
This dish is usually homemade and it is difficult to find it in restaurants. It is considered as a version of Koshari but with mainly rice and yellow lentils instead of the brown lentils in traditional Koshari. It does not have any pasta in the ingredients like in traditional Kushari.
Yellow lentils are soaked in water and then cooked or simmered with rice. Onions, olive oil, and tomato paste is also added to the mix. It tastes smooth and delicious and it is totally vegan. Some versions may have green peas added and maybe chilli or hot peppers and other spices.
Baked Spicy (or mild) Chickpeas
This is a fairly simple dish that can be served as a meal or as a salad or side dish. Chickpeas are soaked in water to soften it and then simmered in water with diced tomato or tomato paste, garlic, Chilli or hot spice (optional), paprika, black peppers, and salt. It can be used as topping for Kushari or Ful Medames.
Moussaka or Mosakkaa
This is a main dish that is served with rice or rice with vermicelli. It can also be eaten with bread. It is another eggplant based dish. Eggplants are grilled or roasted first and mixed with roasted garlic and put in layers into a pot. Olive oil, onions, thyme, oregano, and other herbs are added to the mix. Beef or chicken broth is also used. Beef cubes or sometimes chicken slices are also added to the mix.
Melted mozzarella or Bechamel can be used as topping in some versions. Ground beef can also be used in place of beef cubes or chicken. Egyptian cooks take pride in how their Moussakaa version is better than other versions, and sometimes come up with their own secret ingredients. It is generally a homemade dish, but you can now find it in many restaurants around Egypt. This is also a must try when visiting Egypt.
Stuffed Cabbage Rolls
This dish turns a cabbage vegetable into a delicious Mahshi. Cabbage leaves are stuffed with rice mix similar to other types of Mahshi. Stuffing is made out of rice mixed with tomato paste, cilantro, garlic, garlic, dill, and other herbs and spices. Ground beef can be added to the mix.
Each cabbage leave is cut into reasonable size and rolled or wrapped around some of the stuffing rice mix to look like a finger as done with the grape vine Mahshi. The head of the cabbage or some other edible filling is placed at the bottom of the pot to avoid burning the bottom layer of the stuffed cabbage rolls.
I f you get a chance to try Stuffed Cabbage rolls (or Mahshi Kroumb in Egyptian Arabic) don’t miss it.
Besara (or Bisara)
Besara, Bisara, or Busara is a popular Egyptian dish. It is an inexpensive vegan dish, nutritious. It is another dish based on fava bean like Falafel.
Bessara is made of: fava beans, herbs, garlic, onions, parsley green coriander, and mint. These ingredients give Bessara its distinctive green color.
Bessara is a dip food eaten usually with Baladi or flat bread. Those who are on a budget or looking for a vegan meal can eat it for lunch or dinner. It is also served for breakfast. Chillies or hot peppers, lemon juice, and onions are optional additions. Onions are also chopped into slices, browned by frying and used as topping.
Freekeh is simply roasted green wheat. It is also comes cracked and broken to smaller pieces. It has nutritious value including fiber and protein. It is common in many Egyptian dishes. I have already listed Hamam Mahshi (Stuffed Pigeons) earlier in this post. It is usually cooked by boiling or simmering in water or broth.
Chicken with Freekeh
Freekeh need to be thoroughly washed before cooking and cleaned by hand of any pebbles or dirt.
As mentioned above, Freekah is cooked in water or with beef or chicken broth. Herbs, salt, pepper, and spices are added. Cooked Freekah tastes delicious, nutty, and chewy.
Chicken is sliced, cooked by boiling or frying and then served with Freekah. Fried onion slices are used for toppings.
Roast Chicken with Vegetables and Freekah
In Freekah Stuffed Chicken, Freekah is stuffed into a whole chicken with onions, other vegetables (optional), herbs, and spices. These ingredients are then roasted in oven
Another way to do this is to roast the chicken with any vegetables, cook and serve the Freekah on the side. You can use different toppings including cooked liver.
This method is used for other birds like turkey or pigeons. It can be served with appetizers, salads, and soup. This is a very popular Egyptian dish and it is usually a homemade dish, but you can find it in some restaurants.
Freek (or Freekah or Freekeh) with vegetables
This version is a vegan version of Freekeh. Freekeh (Freekah) or ‘Freek’ as most Egyptians call it can be served plain similar to rice or pasta. It can also be cooked with vegetables like green peas, carrots, and other vegetables.
Roasted meat with green peas and rice or Freekah
In this dish, Freek is cooked separately, while lamb or beef is stewed and green peas are cooked by itself. The three main ingredients are then layered in a serving plate. Another way to do this is to cook all together in a pressure pot to le the Freekah cook in lamb or beef broth.
Egyptian Bamia or Bamya (Okra) Dishes
Bamia in Arabic Egyptian is simply ‘Okra’. It contributes to some of the most popular dishes in Egypt. Although the Okra vegetable is low in calories, the way it is cooked can make a big difference in the resulting total calories for a Bamia dish.
Bamia van be cooked with water, herbs, and spice to make it completely vegan. In most cases Egyptians cook it with ghee, butter or vegetable oil, chicken or beef broth and add meet (lamb or beef) in a clay pot or as Egyptians call it Tagin or Tajin.
Every cook may have their own version with some fine tunings added to the original recipe: adding tomatoes, onions, herbs, and spices. It can be made spicy or mild. Although homemade versions are the best, many restaurants have mastered this dish and even call it homemade style Bamia.
Bamia is usually served with Egyptian Baladi bread, or other bread. It is also be served with rice. A squeezed small lemon is also expected at serving time to add to the flavor. This is a very Egyptian dish that you should not miss when visiting Egypt.
Egyptian Food Facts: Meats and Poultry
Shawarma (Chicken, Beef, or lamb)
This is a meat (usually lamb, beef, or chicken) that is cooked on a vertical spit or rotisserie. It is one of the most famous street foods in the world and in Egypt it is almost around every other corner. However, you need to try it from reputable restaurants when visiting Egypt as not all Shawarmas are made with the same quality.
Meat is first marinated in special mix of oil, herbs, and spice. Each restaurant may add its own secret ingredients. Meat cuts are are then layered vertically on the famous Shawarma skewer after adding all the spices. The skewer is put on a rotating motor that exposes the meat to heat source to slowly cook it. External layers are done firs and are shaved away gradually to expose the next vertical layer to the heat source and so on until the whole cone is shave away.
It is then put into buns or wrapped in flat bread with tahini, lettuce, pickles, and sometimes French fries. What makes a high quality Shawarma sandwich is not just the meat and the cooking, but also the type of bun used, how fresh it is, or the flat bread wrap and how good it tastes. The amount of Tahini and other fillings also makes a big difference.
Shawarma (or Shawirma as per local Egyptian dialect) can also be served as a plate with rice, tahini or hummus, garlic paste, pickles, and sometimes French fries. It can sometimes be made at home but it usually does not taste as good as the one made on the vertical skewer. You may familiar with Shawarma in your country, but I would recommend trying it from one of the famous Shawarma restaurant in Egypt.
Hawawshi (baked meat in bread)
This is known to have been invented by an Egyptian butcher named Ahmed Al-Hawash back in the 1970s and it is named after him. It is now popular everywhere in Egypt and offered in many restaurants and has even spread into other Middle Eastern countries.
In the beginning, butchers used to mix the leftovers from their daily meat cutting and then stuff it into flat bread or into specially made dough and bake it in oven. They added spices, herbs, and onion to the mix.
In today’s homemade or restaurant made versions it is usually made of high quality beef or lamb and stuffed into flat bread especially Egyptian Baladi bread.
Musahab (pulled chicken)
This is ussually a whole chicken with bones removed and cut to be put flat on the grill. It is marinated in spices and herbs and then grilled on coal or propane grills.
IT is usually available at the same restaurants that offer Kabab and is considered a type of Kabab. Some restaurant are specialise in Musahab (or Mosahhab) and offer a grilled chicks or small size chicken called Farrooj. This type of grilled chicken is very popular in Egypt and is offered by some local fast food chains. This is a delicious way to eat a grilled chicken in Egypt in my experience.
Kabab (or Kebab) an Kofta
This is offered as individual plates or mixed plate of grilled steak , ribs, Chicken Kabab, Beef Kafta and Kabab (beef or lamb chops grilled on coal or propane grills)
In Egypt Kabab referes to cuts of meat (lamb or beeg) marinated or seasoned and grilled on coal grills or propane grills. Koftah (or Kofta) is gound beeg (or lamb) that is marinated and mixed with minced onions, fat, and maybe other herbs and spices and then put skewers and grilled.
Some cooks like to have the ground beef salted and put on skewers without any other additions to make it more authentic. To make even more authentic, they mix beef and lamb meats together. This is the best type of Kofta I have ever tasted.
Kofta is known as Kebab in some other countries, but as mentioned above Kebab (or more accurately Kabab in Egyptian Arabic dialect) is chopped meat not the ground meat fingers.
Kabab and Kofta dish is one of the most famous dishes in Egypt, but also one of the most expensive ones. Some grill houses add chicken pieces (called Shish Tawook), grilled lamb testicles (Makhasi), Tarb (Kofta wrapped in lamb belly), Nifa (grilled goat meat).
Alexandrian Liver Sandwich
Liver dishes are considered relatively inexpensive in Egypt and this is one of the reasons it is popular among both rich and poor. The most famous form of liver cooking is what is called Alexandrian liver sandwich which is believed to have originated in Alexandria.
Lamb or beef liver is chopped into small slices marinated and mixed with herbs and spices. It is fried usually with green bell peppers, onions, and chillies. In some versions chopped tomatoes are added to the mix. It is served in Egyptian Fino bread, sandwich buns, or sometimes in flat bread or Baladi bread.
It is usually served with salads and French fries. This is another one you should not miss when traveling to Egypt.
Egyptian Sausage or ‘Sogou’ is a popular street food, but it is also served in many upscale restaurants. There are several ways for cooking Egyptian Sausage or Sogou. The most famous ones are the Baladi or regular and the Alexandrian version.
It is made of ground beef that is mixed with garlic, chillies, black peeper, salts, common, coriander, cardamom, nutmeg, cinnamon, paprika, and maybe some other spices. It is encased in sausage casing and served cooked with onions, tomatoes, and herbs.
It is usually served in sandwiches, but can also be served as the meat element in a meal. It can be made spicy or mild. I preferred the spicy version when I tried it in Egypt.
Hamam Mahshi (Stuffed Pigeons)
Pigeons are consumed in Egypt just like chicken, but pigeon dishes are considered relatively expensive. Pigeons are usually served as stuffed baked dish or as grilled dish.
Pigeon growers use conical shaped towers to raise pigeons and these towers can be seen everywhere on the countryside across Egypt. Squabs (called zaghalil in Egypt) are selected for eating as they are at the best size and age for cooking.
Stuffing can made of rice similar to other types of Mahshi, but it can also be made of Freek or Freekah or Freekeh (which is a sort of green wheat cracked and toasted). Freek (or Freekah) is common as stuffing in many Egyptian dishes or can also be eaten as a standalone dish like rice or pasta. Bulgur (Burghol) can also be used for stuffing but it is not common in Egypt. Bulgur is a sort of cracked parboiled groats of wheat.
Stuffing is prepared with herbs and spices, stuffed into pigeons and pigeons or sewed to keep the stuffing in. It is then cooked in boiling water with onions, cardamom, and other spices. It is then brown by quickly frying it to get a crispy skin.
It is considered by Egyptians as a dish for occasions or celebrations but you can also order it at many restaurants across Egypt.
Pigeons can also be grilled without the stuffing which another popular method to eat pigeons in Egypt. They are marinated an grilled on charcoal or on propane grills and served with rice or Freekah.
Egyptian Meatballs (and Fingers)
Kofta in the Oven
This Kofta is similar to Kabab Kofta, but it is made in the oven. It is made of minced beef or lamb that should have some fat, herbs, onions, spices, and garlic. Meat can also be chicken.
Kofta discs or fingers are put to a try and baked in oven. It is served with rice or pasta and usually some cooked vegetables (or sautéed vegetables) or French fries.
Daoud Bacha meat balls Kafta (or Kofta) and Rice Kofta
This is meat balls cooked in tomato sauce. It is made with ground beef, herbs and spices and cooked in tomato sauce. The better version is made of a mix of ground beef and lamb. It is sometimes served with pine nuts as topping.
The rice Kofta is similar to Daoud Bacha Kofta but with rice added to the mix and all ingredients blended together.
In both cases Kofta is usually served with rice or pasta. It is generally a homemade dish and may be available in some restaurants.
Grilled Whole Lamb
This is a party food. A whole lamb is seasoned and put on the grill and cooked slowly while rotating to create juicy and crisp taste. In some occasions it is served with steamed and seasoned rice called Kabsah.
Another way to do this is to bake lamb thigh or shoulder in the oven which can be easier to do at home. It is also a good option for small gatherings. It can be accompanied by Fattah or Kabsah.
Kamounia is a delicious dish that is made in Egypt and in other countries across the Middle East. It is made of tomato sauces, and beef stew with cumin.
Kamounia is a delicious because of the cumin flavor. May not be offered in restaurants, but you can easily prepare it if you have a kitchen while staying in Egypt.
Kaware are simply cow feet or trotters. This food is also know in Asian, African, and French cuisine. Caware is mainly cartilage and this is why it is actually nutritious and good for bones and skin.
Kawre can be boiled, seasoned and served as soup or eaten with rice. It can also be used as an ingredient for making Fattah in place of beef or chicken. Kaware Fattah isa famous dish that you can find in many restaurant in Egypt.
Kaware may not be for everyone,but for me it was an exciting adventure and I really liked the Kaware Fattah. If you are open to exotice ideas, try this dish when in Egypt.
I tried to give you here a tour through most popular Egyptian foods. My intention here it to give you heads up about Egyptian food facts and how it is made, served, and the main ingredients of each recipe. It is a rich cuisine that has over the centuries blended many ideas, flavors, dishes from around the world to create this unique cuisine. Now you can pick what is most interesting to you to try when you visit Egypt.