History of Egyptian Food
I’m not about to cover centuries about the history of Egyptian cuisine with one blog post, but I am naturally curious about. There’s no “Follow Me Foodie” to Egypt yet (hopefully in the future), but consider this a Follow Me Foodie “nibble” of its history.
Unfortunately we don’t have much of it in Vancouver, and although my travels haven’t led me to many opportunities to try a full on Egyptian feast, I have managed to try some.
A few years ago my Egyptian friend cooked up around 20 dishes, all bona fide Egyptian favourites and we all sat on the floor to enjoy it. It was before I started Follow Me Foodie, so I didn’t get to document it, but Egypt, let alone Egyptian cuisine has always intrigued me.
The following is an associated post.
Egypt is one of the most well recorded ancient histories, so it’s not a surprise that we can trace the origins of Egyptian food in detail.
Egyptian cuisine naturally goes all the way back to Ancient Egypt and involves staples including bread, beans, garlic, coriander and some foods that are more usually synonymous with other Middle Eastern areas, like Falafel and Baklava. It has Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavours and there are crossovers in ingredients, techniques, and many traditional dishes.
Koshari – Photo from Independent.Uk
Vegetarian dishes are very common in traditional Egyptian cuisine. Some dishes include Molokheyya (a soup made from jute leaves and heavily flavoured with coriander and garlic), Koshari (rice, lentils, fried onions, chickpeas and pasta, known as “Egyptian chili”) and Ful Medames (a traditional mashed fava bean dish), all of which are based around beans, pasta, rice and vegetables. The love for veggie dishes is mostly due to the fact that meat used to be, and continues to be, expensive and beyond the range of a lot of people’s weekly budgets. In Alexandria and at resorts along the coast you’ll find plenty of it though, along with seafood and fish.
Ful Medames – Photo from Dyna’s Egyptian Cooking
Bread is another staple in traditional Egyptian food, and it is usually a hearty pita bread called Eish Masri. It’s a very basic bread made from yeast, flour, water and salt and it accompanies most dishes. Along with Ful Medames, as mentioned above, it’s pretty much a national dish and the government subsidizes it to make it available for all.
Ful Medames is traditionally eaten at breakfast and it is typically served with Eish Masri and pickled vegetables on the side. It is slow cooked the night before in a copper pot and topped with either tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, pickled cucumbers and turnips, or tahini. The texture of it can very from creamy like hummus, to chunky with the beans still noticeable. Some may enjoy it by stuffing it into the pita, while others might treat it as a dip and use the bread as a utensil to scoop.
An unusual and traditional Egyptian dish that is only made during a specific festival – the Sham El Nessim is called Fesikh or Feseekh. It is made up of dried, salted and fermented mullet. The fish has to be dried in the sun and then salted. As it’s fish and could cause some serious food poisoning if prepared incorrectly, it’s only done by a specialist and stored in thick glass jars to preserve it. It’s then served with onions and bread.
A lot of the dishes mentioned have been savoury. If you’re wondering how to satisfy your sweet tooth on holiday in Egypt and want to stick to traditional dishes then you should try Konafah. Made from pastry filled with butter, nuts and whipped cream before being baked and served with fruit syrup, it has apparently been around since Medieval times.
If you’re itching to try these traditional Egyptian dishes then it’s time to start looking in for some bargain Egypt holidays 2013. I’m very tempted to book myself… one day. Just remember, even if you find yourself in one of the more touristy resorts, you should make it a mission to try some of these traditional Egyptian foods. Trying new cuisines, flavours and learning about the origins of dishes is a fascinating addition to a holiday itinerary.