Food and Drink in Egypt

A quick guide to the best that Egyptian food has to offer.

 

The Egypt cuisine combines elements from across the Middle East and North Africa, as well as Greece and France, reflecting the diverse influences that have shaped her history.Egyptian chefs often put their own spin on these beloved foods. 


You might, for instance, find that your hummus is flavored with cumin.  The influences vary across the country. Mediterranean influence is more apparent in Alexandria, while in Aswan the influence of Nubian culture and Sudan is more prominent.


In the streets of any Egyptian street, it is easy to find an assortment of small cafes and food carts that serve cheap meals for as little as a 10 or 15 LE. The staples of the Egyptian diet, fuul, taamiya, and bread (‘aish, which means both ‘bread’ and ‘life’ in Egyptian Arabic), are easy to find. Cafes and small restaurants make several other types of typical Egyptian fare easy to find at affordable prices.
 
Read on to get some ideas about what to try on your next tour in Egypt!
 

Food and Drink in Egypt

Bread


Egyptian cuisine wouldn’t be the same without its bread! During your visit, you’ll find plenty of pita bread to wrap up all your falafel and kebabs and dip into flavorful sauces. Keep an eye out for:

 

Eish baladi, traditional pita bread.

Eish fino, an elongated bread roll similar to the French baguette that can also be used to make sandwiches.

Eish shamsi, a sourdough bread popular in Upper Egypt.

 

Food and Drink in Egypt

 

Vegetarian dishes

 

Vegetarians and vegans, take heart: Egypt is an extremely friendly place for plant-based diets. Particularly inland, you’ll find numerous delicious meals prepared from vegetables, legumes, and of course spices. For example:

 

Ful medames, a traditional Egyptian food with a history stretching back centuries, often eaten as a satisfying first meal in the form of sandwiches made with flat bread, tomatoes, onions, spices, and chopped hard-boiled eggs. Ful consists of cooked fava beans plus various herbs and spices. 

Taamiya, is the Egyptian word for falafel, the fried patties of spices and chickpeas that are popular throughout the Middle East. It is usually served in sandwiches with tomatoes, pickles, and tahina (sauce made from sesame paste).

Kushari, a dish with roots in 19th-century Egypt, now consumed at food carts and restaurants nationwide. Ingredients include macaroni, lentils, and rice along with a tomato sauce, and it’s often topped with chickpeas or fried onions. Add a splash of hot sauce if you like! Even a large portion only costs about 20 LE.

 

Food and Drink in Egypt

 

Mezze (small dishes)


Whet your appetite with one or more Egyptian mezze. Popular dishes include:

 

Baba ghanoush, a delightfully smoky eggplant-based dip commonly eaten throughout the region.

Hummus, the mashed chickpea staple popular in the Middle East and Mediterranean.

Duqqa, a mix of nuts, herbs, and spices ground into a kind of dip. Look for duqqa mixtures as you visit spice markets. Unlike baba ghanoush and hummus, duqqa is a specifically Egyptian food.

 

Food and Drink in Egypt

 

Cheese

 

Cheese is another Egyptian staple. Over 5000 years ago, during the First Dynasty of Egypt, people in the area were already making cheese. How do we know? Remnants of cheese were found in ancient alabaster jars at Saqqara. Cheese remained in Egyptian diets over the years, and during the Middle Ages, the city of Damietta grew famous for the cheese it produced. Fried cheese was a medieval Egyptian treat.
So when you’re strolling the streets of Cairo or Luxor nowadays, what kinds of cheese might you find?

 

Mish, a salty fermented cheese often made at home in rural areas.

Domiati cheese, which has a long history and takes its name from Damietta. This extremely popular soft white cheese is typically made from cow or buffalo milk.

Areesh cheese, another soft white cheese, this time made from laban rayeb, a form of curdled milk.

 

You’ll find these and other cheeses featured in a range of dishes, from fiteer to qatayef. Soft white cheese is also a common component of the traditional Egyptian breakfast. 

 

Food and Drink in Egypt

 

Desserts

 

Fiteer is something like a cross between a pizza and pancakes. The soft-layered pastry is prepared with a wide variety of toppings ranging from cheese and vegetables to sugar or honey. Ranging from 30 LE up to around 90 LE, depending on the size and toppingsز

Baklava, another scrumptious pastry flavored with honey and nuts.

Basbousa, a semolina cake coated in syrup and sometimes given additional flavor by rose water or coconut. 

 

Fruit is also excellent in Egypt. You will see the fruit of the season on sale on the side of the roads. It is generally very cheap, except for apple, which are imported.


 

Food and Drink in Egypt

Beyond the basic Egyptian staples, a wide variety of food is available in more expensive restaurants that cater to the middle class and tourists.  ِIn addition, Classic Egyptian offering in restaurants includes kofta or kebab with an assortment of salads and dips (hummus, tahina, babaganoug, etc...) or grilled chicken. Stuffed pigeon is also a popular dish. 


The small birds are stuff with spiced rice or wheat. Mahshee, vegetables or vine leaves stuffed with rice, is also a popular appetizer along with other mezze (plates of olives or potatoes and vegetables prepared in a variety of ways). A meal can be expected to cost between 100 and 200 LE a person.


In Cairo’s wealthier neighbourhoods, there are also a variety of upscale restaurants that serve different cuisines from around the world. These restaurants tend to be more expensive and the prices can reach over 300 LE a person.
 

 

Meat dishes

 

There are also plenty of Egyptian dishes that incorporate meat, from hearty stews to simple grilled fare. Below, a few delicious examples: 

 

Fatteh, a celebratory meal often eaten on Eid al-Adha. It is made from lamb, rice, bread, and sauce.

Hawawshi, a traditional dish of bread stuffed with minced meat and vegetables.

Kamounia, a rich stew eaten in Egypt, Sudan, and Tunisia. It’s made with beef and spiced with cumin. 

Shawarma, is chopped chicken or lamb that is usually cooked on brazers visible from the street. Served on several types of bread, this is a delicious (and superior) version of the doner kebabs that are widely available in most European cities. Prices between 25 and 35 LE depending on size.

 

Food and Drink in Egypt

 

Fish and seafood

 

If you’re traveling along the coast or staying in Alexandria, you’ll have great access to fresh fish and seafood. You might order a simple but delicious dish of grilled or fried fish with a side of rice. 
Fish and seafood is also popular, especially in Alexandria, Aswan, and on the coast, where there is more ready access to the sea or Lake Nasser. Nile perch, snapper, sea bass, squid or shrimp will usually be sold fresh out of an icebox by the kilo and then grilled or fried.
 

Visitors during the springtime Sham el-Nessim festival may see many people eating

fesikh, a traditional dish made from a dried, salted, and fermented saltwater fish, the gray mullet, which is caught in the Red and Mediterranean Seas. It’s a tricky food to prepare properly, and definitely an acquired taste!

 

Food and Drink in Egypt

 

Beverages

 

And finally, a short note on tea, one of Egypt’s most popular beverages. You can drink black tea virtually anywhere in several different forms, with varying methods of preparation and amounts of sugar. 


Herbal teas are also popular, especially refreshing hibiscus tea. Mint tea is another great option. You may see fresh mint leaves lending flavor to black teas or lemonades as well. Whether you’re sipping black tea over breakfast or relaxing with a cold hibiscus tea after lunch, you’re sure to appreciate Egypt’s tea-drinking culture as much as its incredible food. 

Food and Drink in Egypt
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