Have food, will travel: Egypt

Of course travel entails physical movement from one place to another. But some of the most experiential ways to travel is of course the culinary travel, one of my most favourite ways to see and smell and experience the new cultures.

Egypt was a delight of a discovery if the cuisine appeals to the palate, like it did for me. Egyptian cuisine consists of the local culinary traditions of Egypt and makes great use of vegetables and sprouts of many kinds. Probably because of the rich Nile delta that produces large quantities of high quality crops.
Bread forms the backbone of Egyptian cuisine, consumed by all classes is largely accompanied with beans. Bread was central to all food in Egypt, just as much as the roti or rice is as a staple to India. Infact an interesting anecdote was narrated to me about breads in Egypt – more than an occasional fight has broken out over bread, leading to fear of bread riots in Egypt. So yep bread is serious business there. Very central to food consumption

The one dish that caught my fancy so totally in Egypt was Kushari made of lentils, rice, macaroni, chickpeas and tomato sauce and yummy fried crisp onion shavings as toppings to add the right crunch to a tasty wholesome meal. For a vegetarian this dish is full of goodness and nutrition, tasty and has a delicate flavour, very close to home grown food for me:)The other favourite of mine was and is the fresh herbs mixed with spicy tomato salad (almost like the salsa) which is stuffed in aubergines and then baked or deep fried in butter. Lip smacking yummy! Mulukhiyya is another popular green soup made of finely chopped leaves, coriander and fried garlic that gives it the bite needed for the locals to feel the food. I find the garlic to be over powering and hence not one of m most favoured among the many dishes I absolutely loved there.

While I was there and did not partake in the non veg fare I could see that non veg food is a way of life there just as much as eating fresh vegetables is. In many nations I have seen people slant one way or another but in Egypt the Egyptians eat in a balanced manner, the kebabs and the koftas are accompanied with a healthy helping of veggies and salads that make for wholesome food.

The other dishes that blew me away so completely - the famous rice dish! It’s a dish where spicy rice is stuffed into vegetables like bell peppers. Absolutely divine and melts in the mouth experience. Then it can also be prepared with rice and tomatoes which in turn is rolled in grapevine leaves and is unmistakably tangy in taste. The same preparation had a variation - can be made in cabbage leaves if you cant deal with the tanginess of the grapevine leaves (I prefer the cabbage leaves) – I found this dish delectable. It is time consuming labour of love, but the ultimate result is a craft and precision that allows for a gastronomic delight.

If you think India is delight for the sweet toothed,think again, India has competition! I went into a pretty similar halwai shop (like our very own Chappan Bhog or Ghasitaram) and the result was I brought back kilos and kilos of fabulous sweets from Egypt into India through customs! The deserts are to absolutely die for! Their pastries and puddings dripping in honey, soft and gentle, tatse that makes you want to over indulge and give 2 hoots about calory intake! Mahallabiya is the Egyptian version of Indian kheer (milk pudding) , Asbusa is like a lovely flaky cookie to have with a good cup of coffee, Asabi gullash has lots of nuts, spices and syrup , these are little finger food snacks and is …yum. Baklava is made in ghee and is horrifically rich, sinful, divine and demands a second helping! As you can tell the food in Egypt is wide varied and something you fall in love with very easily. Basbousa another favourite of mine - a semolina cake coconut based (and to think of it I am not really too fond of Indian coconut based sweets but loved this Egyptian sweet!) with almond, vanilla, rosewater. The true test of good food is when a vegetarian like me endorses that food:)

If I don’t stop writing right away, I will be adding more weight to myself just thinking about all this food. So! My closing thoughts … while all that you have heard of Egypt about its mysticism and what not is true but the real Egypt lies in the food - give me my last morsel from Egypt and I will reach jannat!