Just hearing the word ‘Egypt’ makes the edges of my heart turn upwards, in a grin.
I know: Egyptian history (especially recent) is troubling. It’s even on the front page of the New York Times this morning. And there was a bombing when I was there, after all. And yes, it’s hot, dusty, crowded. But also? So very magical.
Even the food. Take kushari, for example. It has a reputation as a poor-man’s food. But it’s actually quite loved by Egyptians (and, ahem, others) across the board. In fact, in Egypt there are entire restaurants that serve ONLY kushari. During the month I spent in Eqypt years ago, I went to them. Repeatedly. They were always crowded and full of loud families. Fantastic.
What is kushari? It has four layers.
The first is a rice/lentil mixture; I used green lentils and a wild rice medley. The next is small pasta; I found an organic, wheat, couscous-esque, tiny Italian pasta that looked fitting. Some people use elbow macaroni, but that’s too American for my taste. The third layer is a vinegar (and often spicy) tomato sauce. Last? Fried onions. YUM, eh? Am I right? Variations include adding chickpeas. Pouring lemon atop it. Or more vinegar. Or anything super spicy.
There’s an Egyptian food cart here in Portland and I once ordered kushari. “How do you know about kushari?” he said suspiciously, leaning over the counter in a whisper. It wasn’t on the menu. But he had it. Made it. And I loved it. The bummer part is that every time I return to said cart they never have it anymore. Boo. Which means I need to start making it.
Here’s actual Egyptian kuskari in a kushari-only restaurant I frequented:
I’ve never tried to make it, but it can’t be that hard, right? True, mine wasn’t as good as this fancy shiny-bowl version. But after making this, I now had three lunch leftover meals packed up in the fridge. Yippee.
Be forewarned, you need lots of onion.
You’ll have four burners working.
And some dishes to do. (Help? Anyone?)
But if you have no local food cart and no plans to trek to Cairo anytime soon, this is easy, filling, and tasty, too.
Rating: Sentimentally? 4 of 5 glasses of wine. For no attachment to Egypt whatsoever? Probably a 3. But totally worth trying for some international flair. Download below.