The staples of the Egyptian diet are broad (‘aish, which also means “life”), fuul and taamiya. Bread, eaten with all meals and snacks, comes either as pitta-type ‘aish shamsi (sun-raised bread made from white flour) or ‘aish baladi (made from coarse whole wheat flour).

Fuul (pronounced “fool”, fava bens) Is extremely cheap and can be prepared in several ways. Boiled and mashed with tomatoes, onions and spices, the beans are referred to as fuul madammes, a dish often served with a chopped boiled egg for breakfast. A similar mixture stuffed into’ aish baladi constitutes the pitta-bread sandwiches sold on the street.

Just as inexpensive is taamiya, sometimes called falafel, deep-fried patties of green beans mixed with spices. Again, it’s served in pitta-bread, often with a snatch of salad, pickles and tahina (a sauce made from sesame paste, tahini), for which you can expect you pay the grand sum of E1 or so.

More elaborate, and pricier, are fiteer, a cross between pizza and pancake, and costing E5-15 depending on size and ingredients. Served at café-like establishments known as fatatri, they consist of flaky filo pastry stuffed either with white cheese, peppers, mince, egg, onion and olives, or with raisins, jams, curds or just a dusting of icing sugar.

Most sandwiches are small rolls with a minute portion of basturma (pastrami) or cheese. Other favorite fillings include grilled liver (kibda) with spicy green peppers and onions: tiny shrimps: and mokh (crumbed sheep’s brains).

A common appetizer is torshi, a mixture of pickled radishes, turnips, gherkins and carrots: luridly colored, it is something of an acquired
taste, as are pickled lemons, another favorite.

Lastly, there’s shawerma- slices of marinated lamb, stuffed into pitta bread or a roll and garnished with salad and tahina –some- what superior to the similar-looking doner kebabs sold abroad. A shawarma sandwich from a street stall can cost as little as E 2, while a plate of shawerma in a cheap diner will set you back around E5.

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