Sunday, April 25, 2010
Eating Egypt: Day 1 - In the air + Cairo
We went to Egypt two weeks ago. If you're interested in what we ate there, you're going to enjoy this series of blog posts. Let's get to it with a rundown of our first day in Cairo.
1. EgyptAir dinner and breakfast (dinner pictured above) -- Hey, guys. That's some dry chicken you're serving.
Note: Dan pointed out to me that dinner and breakfast on our 9-hour plane ride were served within 3 or 4 hours of each other. Not cool, EgyptAir. Why not space that food out a little?
2. Nile-side drinks at the open-air Sequoia -- "Lemonade" in Cairo tastes a lot like limeade. I read that Egyptian lemons are, for all Western intents and purposes, limes. Dan had a strawberry banana smoothie.
Sequoia looks something like an outdoor furniture store with mirrors anywhere they can be hung and all the seating slip-covered in white. Our guidebook said a reservation is "a must," but we had it practically all to ourselves. Apparently it's a pretty hip spot in the evening.
The place is famous for serving a thousand and one flavors of shisha (sweetened, flavored tobacco). We tried cantaloupe. Cultural peer pressure, kids! It didn't taste too good for me, though. I formed no habit.
Insider tip: Our Cairene hosts suggested the food at Sequoia is overrated. They weren't wrong about much on the trip, so I don't regret taking their word for it.
3. Dinner at the dark and atmospheric Abu El Sid -- Eggplant and tomato with vinegar, tahina (sesame dip), baba ghanouj, lentil dip, yogurt dip, crispy and soft breads, spicy shrimp and tomato, ful, Circasian chicken (with a thick sauce made from crushed walnuts), veal kebab, warak einab (stuffed grape leaves), koshari, tamiya (fried fava bean patties), umm ali (bread pudding), aseer asab (sugarcane juice, pictured above).
Highlights at Abu El Sid:
Koshari and ful are both classic, traditional Egyptian dishes that I didn't want to leave the country without trying. Koshari is a mixture of spaghetti and macaroni noodles, tomato sauce, chickpeas, fried onions, rice, and lentils. I approve!
Ful medames (or ful, pronounced "fool") is a sort of Egyptian refried bean dish, made with fava beans. It's traditionally eaten for breakfast and is, like koshari, very filling.
Speaking of filling, the bread pudding, or umm ali (pictured above), was incredibly sweet and heavy. Though it was good, we couldn't finish the dish.
Aseer asab (sugarcane juice), which I was excited to try, was also quite sweet, but more refreshing.
Whoa. I ate all this (except the veal kebabs, which I didn't try) on the first day? We didn't even get into Cairo until early afternoon. Stay tuned for the rest of the week.