While Egyptian cuisine isn’t extremely popular commercially, those who’ve had the good fortune of trying it out have commented on the variety of tastes and flavors it combines. Wheat and barley happen to be staples in the Egyptian diet, most of which is grown along the banks of River Nile. The cuisine also makes use of several vegetables, such as beets, mushrooms, molokhiyya (a distant cousin to spinach), and beans. In addition, Egyptians also relish meats and seafood like squids, scallops, and shrimps. Onions and garlic enjoy a privileged position in cooking and are included in virtually all dishes in one form or another.
Egyptian cuisine also depends a lot on breads, the most popular among them being the pita bread. These breads can be made from either whole wheat (aysh baladi) or white flour (aysh shami). A specialty meal prepared for festivals and celebratory ocassions would typically comprise of delicacies such as bean stew falafel with lamb and pigeon, dry or deep fried fish, grilled pigeon stuffed with rice, and a spicy salad made of cheese, tomatoes, eggs, beans, yogurt, and potatoes.
For breakfast, Egyptians, especially those in the villages of the Nile Delta, enjoy having fatir. The word is a derivation from another word meaning “to break the fast.” This pan cooked pastry-cum-pancake can be both savory as well as sweet. Since the dough of the fatir is folded upon itself, the resulting pastry is very fluffy. The most popular savory fatir is the fatir bi’l-sakhina, which is available in two varieties. In the first, it is served with a sauce made with chicken poached with onions and water buffalo samna (clarified butter); and in the other, it is covered with a sauce made of vegetables cooked in garlic and vinegar. The sweet version of fatir can be made with confectioner’s sugar and apricot preserves or even fresh fruit.
If you have a sweet tooth, Egyptian cuisine has more than enough variety to offer. From the moderately sweet baklava made from filo dough, nuts and honey to the sugar packed basbousa – a preparation comprising of semolina pastry drenched in honey and garnished with hazelnuts – you can take your pick from different delicacies to tickle your taste buds. For those who prefer stick to their after meal ice creams, the bouzat haleeb will be an interesting change. This Egyptian ice cream is unlike the rich creamy ice cream you are used to and it is rather gummy in texture. Nonetheless, it’s quite delicious and the perfect way to end a sumptuous meal!
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