Considered by many to be Egypt’s national dish, Koshari is a staple item on any street food vendor’s cart as you are walking around Cairo.
Koshari is an Egyptian dish created in the 19th century. It is made of rice, macaroni and lentils all mixed together, topped with a tomato and vinegar sauce, then garnished with chickpeas and crispy fried onions. With all these ingredients it’s no wonder the average serving of koshari amounts to around 900kcal – so it’s not exactly a healthy option for lunch!
Koshari originated in a time when Egypt’s economy was marked by a period of significant trouble and this led to food becoming more and more scarce as money was hard to come by for ordinary Egyptians. The lower classes usually had limited budgets, so rather than buy new food, families used to put together the remains of their pantries to create an extra meal. This meal – a product of everybody’s leftovers – was named koshari!
Today it remains widely popular and can be found sold at roadside stalls all over the country. Even tourists who come to Egypt are likely to be eating koshari at some point of their stay, either in a hotel restaurant, or as a scrumptious street food snack! In fact, I consider koshari to be one of the 12 most prominent street foods in Egypt.
I have tried other mixed rice dishes around the world, such as nasi goreng in Indonesia and paella in Spain, but koshari really takes on an identity of its own, and I think the reason for this is down to the added onions and other fried ingredients that give it that more fattening texture.
One of the best things to do in Cairo (or anywhere in Egypt, for that matter) is to shop – and this includes shopping for food! If you can adjust to the culture shock of haggling and being pressured in the markets then you will no doubt begin to enjoy the atmosphere. You could even sit and people watch with a serving of koshari on your lap!
Piping hot koshari goes hand in hand with a typical working day in Cairo – it’s almost as common as bread in the diets of the locals – and if you come to this part of the world you cannot miss the opportunity to grab yourself a serving of this fatty-yet-tasty street snack!