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Cairo Food Guide – What and Where to Eat in the Land of the Sphinx ?

Cairo food guide blog of mine will help all those travelers and foodies who are visiting Egypt’s capital for the first time. The cuisine of Cairo is delicious and savoury. Hence, it is important to make the right picks in the most recommended places.

Egypt as a country is host to various international and famous brands of restaurants. Also some not-so-famous ones offering international dishes from every cuisine all over the world.

Cairo is  saturated by the Egyptian food culture. The Egyptian cuisine is characterized by moderately spiced food that boosts the overall taste. The ingredients used at large are quite exotic, sometimes even strange. 

Gourmands all over the world seek mouth watering and exotic tastes wherever they go. However for those fellow adventurous travelling gourmands, it can be a risky challenge looking for the right taste in a foreign country.

It is in situations like this that a Cairo food guide comes in handy.

Cairo Food Guide: An Overview

Country Egypt
Continent Africa
Preference Food items
Important Criteria for their food Fullness. The food in Cairo is rich in fats and carbs.
Famous National Dishes Koshari, Fool and Falafel, Feteer, Kofta, Tarb and the list goes on.
Their cravings for specific material Meat and Fish. 
The table etiquette Usage of spoons, forks and knives is common. The etiquette is well-established but when your passion is ahead of you, there’s none to impress, so dig in direct. Nobody will judge.
Influences on Food North Africa and Middle East
Budget Eating Places Available

In the current Cairo food guide blog, I will show case the complete picture as far as the cuisine and the food map are concerned. Also, the recommended food items will be discussed in detail.

Cairo Food Tours for Travelers 

Exclusive Cairo Food Tour 

As per our Cairo food guide, this  tour will help you discover off-the-beaten-path spots for unique Egyptian food. If you want, your food tour can even be customized.

Cairo Nile Dinner Cruise

According to our Cairo food guide, this tour will ensure that you treat yourself to an evening on the Nile with delicious dinner and a belly dancing show. This tour also includes pickup from your hotel.

Best Foods in Egypt Tour

As per our Cairo food guide, this tour will not only help you taste the best Egyptian foods but will also make you a food expert. 



Cairo Food Guide for Vegetarian Travelers

Egyptians at large aren’t quite familiar with the concept of ‘vegetarianism.’ Therefore the list of food items under this category is a short one. 

Meat has its unique place in the hearts of Egyptians. In fact it is the second most expensive raw food material in Egypt after fish and seafood.

On the contrary,  vegetables and fruits in Egypt have one of the lowest prices globally. They’re still not deliberately consumed as a main dish. 

So if you’re a vegetarian lover, you’ll find no problem in managing your life, but when it comes to eating outside the options might be limited.

Vegetables are usually eaten as a side dish, whether with spiced tomato sauce or sautéed.  But if I have to talk about preferred and sumptuous vegetarian meals, three dishes instantly come to mind –

Koshari

A local dish made of a mixture of seeds and macaroni. The dish is basically made of lentils, rice, fried onions, macaroni, spaghetti, vinegar and garlic sauce, hot sauce and tomato sauce.

The dish is usually eaten with some sort of salted fried bread and followed by a bowl of sugary rice with milk and cream as dessert after the main dish of Koshari.

It’s the perfect meal for fasting individuals as it contains no animal fats.

Koshari is always the cheapest and most efficient way to be full. You can have a fancy and big dish for less budget. The ingredients tend to interact together to make a super delicious meal.

Falafel

This meal is usually eaten as a breakfast (a very heavy and fatty breakfast) .It contains no animal fats so it’s a fasting-friendly meal.

Fool is a kind of spiced boiled-beans, while Falafel as known globally is a fried herbal mix with onion and Humus-base.

In Egypt the base is beans instead of humus. This meal is usually eaten with the local bread, french fries, boiled eggs or omelette and spicy fried eggplant.

Eating them is always a choice among sandwiches or plates to be eaten with bread. They’re extremely oily, yet they’re so satisfying when it comes to taste and tendency to make you full with their simple spices and simply delicious taste.

Feteer

It’s a type of layered bread but made of butter to the level of having your skin covered on fats at the moment of touching it. It’s usually eaten with a type of extremely salty cheese “Mesh”, honey, and Molasses with Tahini. It’s usually served in the country-side.

The experience of feteer is always bedazzling especially if you eat like a bite with honey and a bite with salted cheese alternately, you feel that they’re boosting the taste of each other and your taste buds begin to be shocked and tremendously enjoy what they’re dealing with.

 

cairo food guide

Koshari – The lovely mix of rice, macaroni, and lentils. Photography by Rohia Hakimova

Cairo Food Guide: Recommended Vegetarian Eating Places

For Koshary

Abou-Tarek

Helwan, Al Inshaa WA Al Munirah, El-Sayeda Zainab, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

Abou-Hanafy

65 el pasha sq.، Al Manyal Al Gharbi, Al Manial, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

Koshari El-Tahrir

7 Abbas El Akkad St., Nasr City , Cairo , Egypt

For Falafel

GAD

13 26th of July St.Cairo 11511, Egypt

El-Kazaz

2 Mohammed Roushdy, Al Fawalah, Abdeen, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

Neama

6, El Dobbat Bldgs. El Gabal El AkhdarCairo 11511, Egypt

El-Aelat

Al Hel Maya, El-Darb El-Ahmar, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

El-Modhesh

27 Sayed El-Helw, Masaken Al Amireyah Al Ganoubeyah, Hadaeq Al Qubbah, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

For Feteer

Wahet Omar (on Cairo-Alexandria desert road)

Km 111 Alexandria, Cairo Desert Road، El Beheira Governorate, Egypt

Koshari, Fool we Falafel and Feteer most certainly are the most popular dishes when it comes to vegetarians. As a traveler,  you might like some other options but mostly they aren’t purely Egyptian.

Some other Egyptian foods can be categorized here but they fit more in another category of the upcoming ones, so even if you are vegetarian or vegan, keep reading as you might find other options that can suit you.

Cairo Food Guide for Dishes Prepared on a Grill

Now it’s time for what the Egyptians really like. If meat is really their thing, then sheep meat is their most favorite. In Egypt Grill is that way of cooking that can stop you in the street and make you chase the aroma directly in an eating place offering their grilled meals.

In the current Cairo food guide blog, I will mention my own list of grilled dishes. The order will be from the ones easier to digest to the more fatty and mouth watering dishes. Let’s start with grilled chicken, quails and pigeons.

Now do these seem simple and mainstream?

Well, in Egypt some restaurants serve their grilled birds stuffed with spiced rice or wheat. You haven’t been fascinated yet? Well, how about eating them with the famous soup of Molokheya, the famous Egyptian herbal soup with garlic.

Once you start digging into the bird and taste the rice which is mostly made with the right salt amount, cinnamon and bird’s liver, and that it took a good percentage of its cooking while being inside the bird, it really tastes like the spices and have a homogeneous taste with the meat of the bird itself.

cairo food guide

Molokhia – The nutritional soup. Photography by Stefania Pires

Recommended Eating Places for Grilled Egyptian Food as per Cairo Food Guide

Kheyam El-Mandy

21 Nasser El Thawra Street, Faisal , Cairo , Egypt

Farahat

122 Al Azhar, El-Gamaleya, Qism El-Gamaleya, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

Sobhy Kaber

Ebeid, As Sahel, Cairo Governorate, Egypt

Moving on through the long list to the mix grill –

Globally known grilled meat is either grilled on charcoal like barbecue, or on an electric grill, that’s familiar. But when it comes to the spices and fat used in Egyptian grills, its a tad bit extreme.

Cairo Food Guide

Grilled liver can be one heck of a treat. Photography by Daryl Ignacio

Let’s start with the first category of ‘grilled on charcoal food ‘in Egypt. Mixed meat grill is mainly named after five main pillars –

Kabab

Spiced grilled red meat with fats

Reyash

Grilled spiced ribs

Kofta

Spiced and fatty minced beef grilled in the form of fingers

Tarb

A type of kofta but wrapped in stomach fats

Sogok

The grilled Egyptian-spiced sausage

Where to Savour the 5 Grilled Pillars of Egyptian Cuisine ?

Farahat

Auf

Sobhy Kaber

Abou-Tarek

Kamonna

Last but not least on the list, is the meat grilled on surface grills. In this category, my top recommendation is the one and only “El-Madina.”

It offers various meat products grilled with sheep fat (lets them gain an extraordinary, mouth-watering taste). On the menu of El Madina, you can find, meat fillets, sausage, kofta balls, liver, sliced balls (yeah, as in testicles, they’re extremely famous in Egypt), and marrow.

Try to get like a quarter kilo of “Mix El-Madina.”  It contains a taste of each thing and you can decide while digging what is your favorite ?


Hawawshi in Cairo : The Popular Egyptian Bread

Hawawshi is basically made of local bread stuffed with spicy minced beef with sheep fat, onions, pepper or spicy sausages. Mostly, it’s made in Egyptian homes but you can savour it outside as well.

When it comes to eating outdoors, there’s the one and only “El-Refaa’y” in the area of Abdeen, Downtown. This place isn’t very fancy, but you’re taken to heaven and forget about everything around you after you take the first bite.

cairo food guide

Hawawshi – Pita bread comprising minced meat and spices. Photography by Nabanita Dutta

Now, that we have finished this category let’s move along through our Cairo food guide to “Tajins”.

Egyptian Preparation in Clay Pots – The Tajin

Tajin is the arabic word for clay pot that’s used for juicy meals prepared in oven.

There’s only one eating place name worth mentioning in this category – Bebo.

Bebo has a long menu of various items, but its specialty is the  “Tajin”. The cooks at Bebo make a pot of cows’ tails with caramelized onions and wheat beside two signature pots –

The first one is meat with caramelized onions. It contains like 3 medium-sized meat cubes submerged and cooked with lovely spices, pepper and caramelized onions. Once you taste your first bite, you won’t be able to pull your hands away.

The second signature is Bebo’s Tajin. It contains three meat fillet rolls, stuffed with spiced special wheat. The combo move is to order both of them and to put the rolls in the caramelized onion pot and enjoy them with that delicious spicy caramelized onion taste with every bite.

These pots are usually eaten with local bread, tahini sauce, green salad, bachamel pasta and soup.

This was like a summarized category but can’t be neglected on this Cairo food guide.

cairo food guide

A meal being served from a Tajjin. Photography by Tyler Van Voorhees

Local Pizza and Feteer

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve mentioned Feteer before but that was the plain one. I will now introduce you to an entire world of  possibilities that Feteer offers to Egyptian food lovers and first time tasters.

Egyptian love pizza but it’s not fatty enough sometimes and the pizza dough doesn’t accept minced beef or sausages perfectly. So, the solution is “Feteer” dough.

The dough is used in Egypt to provide three other dishes (other than plain feteer) –

The first two options -Eastern pizza and Savory Feteer use Roumi cheese as a main ingredient instead of the Italian Mozzarella. Both are stuffed with the additional  meat, chicken or other varieties of meat , among the layers of the dough. They are quite savory. 

The only difference among them, is that the Savory Feteer has all of the ingredients stuffed inside while the pizza has the rest of ingredients as toppings (like cheese, tomatoes, peppers and olives). They’re usually served with spicy potatoes, pickles and extremely salty cheese – Mesh.

As for the last type, the “Sweet Feteer” , it comes in many forms more than I can list.  It can be served simply with powdered sugar on top, or with honer and cream, or can become more complex as in nutella with nuts, or fruits with milk and custard, or even nutella with nuts, custard, bananas and ice-cream.

Simply put, this category is similar to pizza but with greater flexibility and potentials.

Some of the greatest eating places names in this category according to my listing for Cairo’s food guide are –

El-Mohandeseen

Hamza

Awlad El-Hussein

Best Fried Preparations to Try as per Cairo Food Guide

This section is a bit weird but for adventurous gourmands it can be rewarding. This section is mainly categorized into fried fruits of meat (I know it’s a weird term, I’ll explain later), and fried livers and brains (Nasty? Just wait, and more importantly dare to taste then judge).

Let’s start with the less “disgusting” option, the fried livers and brains (yeah, this is the less disgusting, wait till you know the identity if those fruits).

Like they are named, they’re cow brains and livers sliced, dipped in milk with garlic, covered in flour then deeply-fried and then spiced. This meal is usually served with Tahini, yoghurt salad, liver salad and green salad.

The restaurants which sell livers and brains usually sell fried calamari and shrimps if you want the safe options and they’re as delicious as well.

The top eating place recommendation for this meal is Fathy

Moving on to the second option on the Cairo food guide, I’ll talk about the fried fruits of meat. Its known as “Fawakeh El-Lohoum” in Arabic. It is essentially a mixture of cows’ parts that aren’t usually eaten globally, like the lungs, the pharynx, the tongue, the pancreas and rice-stuffed intestines.

All of them are well-spiced, boiled then fried upon each order. They’re a different yet delicious taste for adventurous gourmands. The meal is usually served with salads, pickles and cows’ legs soup with marrow.

The best place to try this dish according to my Cairo food guide, to taste these crazy stuff is Habayeb El-Sayeda.
cairo food guide

Fried liver in various preparations. Photography by Daryl Ignacio

Cairo Food Guide for Street Eats

A variety of delicious items can be tasted and savoured on the streets of Cairo. The most popular among them are sandwiches. Now these aren’t the sandwiches of the western world but are unique to Egypt, even parts of middle east.

 Sandwiches have always been considered the default form of fast food and street food. In Egypt other than the famous Falafel sandwiches there are four other sandwiches that are worth mentioning in my Cairo food guide –

Shawarma – Most of the globe thinks Shawarma of as Syrian food but in our case we don’t usually use Syrian bread but French bread.

Shawarma is made of compressed spiced chicken or meat slices that are grilled. They are then mixed with vinegar, tomatoes, parsley and onions. Finally put into bread with Tahini sauce. It’s one of the most delicious meals that you can enjoy. Shawarmas are best served with Neama and Semsema.

The next two sandwiches I’d like to talk about are usually served on food carts not restaurants. They’re grilled spiced liver or sausage with onions, pepper and garlic. They’re well served in french bread with Tahini sauce and served with pickles.

The famous cart in Cairo serving these two sandwiches is the cart beside “Baba Abdo.” it serves Pasta as well. Therefore, you can either enjoy these sandwiches as it is or along with pasta. 

The fourth one on our sandwiches section in Cairo food guide is a sweet one. It’s called Sakalans.

It’s a sandwich comprising Halva, cream and jam. It’s also served on the mentioned cart above i.e Baba Abdo.

cairo food guide

Shawarma being prepared outside an eatery. Photography by Ashwin Kumar

Sea Food in Cairo

Most of the fish and sea food available in Cairo isn’t unique to the region. They are popular and available in other regions of the world as well. 

Therefore this section of the Cairo Food Guide is an open one. The red sea area restaurants serve decent sea food. But so does the Cairo are. 

Some of the best eating places in Cairo for sea food are –

Ibn Hamido
Fish market
El-Horani

The above three mentioned names are some of the most decent names in the area of fish restaurants in Cairo. If you stick to my Cairo food guide and would like to get a seafood meal without moving outside Cairo, then they’re certainly your destination.

cairo food guide

Sea food in Cairo quite similar to the mainstream dishes served in other regions of the world. Photography by Anastasiia Reison

Cairo Food Guide Recommendations for Desserts

If you’re one of those people who has a sweeth tooth,then Cairo is your destination. You surely will put on some extra pounds owing to all the butter and cream used. But its ok to put on some holiday weight every now and then.

Most of the traditional sweets in Egypt lay under four main categories –

Eastern Sweets

Eastern sweets are basically all kinds of sweets that share being cooked in an oven or deeply fried. The common ingredients are butter and syrup (water with lemon and sugar, heated over the stove till they gain a homogenous and slightly dense form for sweetening the dessert).

This category has Konafa, Gollash and Basbousa under the oven-cooked section, while Atayef, Balah El-sham, Zalabya and Sawabe’ Zeinab under the deeply-fried section.

You can enjoy most of them at any of the following mentioned patisseries – “El-Domiaty”, “El-Helmeya”, “La Poire”, “Salé Sucré” and the list goes on and on.

Dairy Products

This includes many dishes whose main ingredients are milk, sugar and cream. The list is long but the highlights on such list include Om Ali, Rice with Milk, Oven-cooked Rice with Milk, Mehallabeya, Custard and last but not least is Qonbola or the bomb if it’s translated.

The Qonbola is a mixture of many sweet foods all together in one dish. It’s one layer Konafa, one layer Basbousa, one layer Custard, one layer banana slices, one layer apple cubes, some strawberry juice, some mango juice and a handful piece of extra-fatty cream.  It’s not an easy task finishing it by one person alone especially after having a delicious meal just before it.

The top two eateries serving good dairy products as per the Cairo food guide are – “El-Karnak” (only there you can find this authentic Qonbola), and “El-Malki”.

Both of them offer extras on your main order like nuts, raisins, extra cream or ice-cream.

So dream big and forget about your calories.

Caramelized Nuts

It’s quite evident from the name itself. They’re nuts/seeds mixed with syrup and then hardened to form some sort of crispy candies. Each of it is named after the nut its made with – Fooleya (Peanuts), Fosdokeya (Pistachios), Kajooeya (Cashews), Bondokeya (Hazelnuts).

There’s some sort of pecans rolled in flexible candy called Malban Be Ein El-Gamal.

All of them are highly recommended. They’re seasonal sweets as it’s traditional in Egypt to eat them on the Islamic anniversary for Prophet Muhammad’s birthday but “Wadi El-Nile Ahmed Attia” patisserie is always making them over the year, for anyone to enjoy them whenever they want.

Bakeries

This category includes baked doughs primarily containing butter and sweetened in many different ways.

Feteer of course can be categroized under this section but with it lies a whole other world of Petit-Fort, Kahk, Ghorayeba, Oras Be Agwa, Baskoot and Shakallama.

Each one of them has its own taste and they’re seasonal as they’re linked to feasts in Egypt but “El-Helmeya” patisserie is always selling them over the whole year and they’re really good.

This is mostly everything about sweets in our Cairo food guide, so let’s move now to the beverages section.


Beverages in Cairo

Egyptian drinks are mainly three traditional hot drinks and seven cold ones but there’re many cocktails that can drive you crazy.

About the traditional hot drinks, one of them isn’t offered on cafés and it’s only made at home, its name is “Moghat”. It’s usually served when a baby is born. It is made of powdered fenugreek seeds, nuts, raisins, sugar and butter, so it’s served hot, it’s very delicious yet unfortunately, it’s not served at cafés.

The other two drinks are Helba and Sahlab.

Helba is either served boiled in water or milk.  Sahlab which is coconut powder with sugar and nuts mixed over the stove with milk.

On the other hand, the most popular of the seven traditional cold beverages are, “Sugar cane” juice, and actually its juicer is only manufactured in Egypt, it’s available almost in every spot all over Egypt but the best place to serve it is “Saad Afifi”.

The second is “Sobia”, which is made of rice and coconut powder with sugar.

The other six are all made by the same methodology of rinsing the herb in water with sugar then using the rinsed water as juice, the herbs are “Hibiscus” (In Egyptian:Karkadeeh), “Hyphaene” (Doom), “Ceratonia siliqua” (Kharoob), “Liquorice” (Erksoos), “Apricot paste” (Amar El-Din) and “Tamarindus indica” (Tamr Hendi).

Each of them has its own taste and benefits. All of the mentioned cold beverages along with some other crazy cocktails can be found in these famous juices’ outlets “Abou Hammam” (this special one has crazy names for his cocktails like mother monkey milk, or lioness milk and the list goes on), “Farghali”, “City Drink” and “Abou Leila”.

Cairo is currently one of the cheapest travel destinations when it comes to food. The most expensive meal of mix- grilled meat costs around 200 Egyptian pounds per person. Egyptian people have adopted the lifestyle of “Living to eat” not the other way around, so whenever you come to Egypt, get your stomach ready for one of the harshest yet most rewarding tests of all. Fly to Egypt and keep this Cairo food guide around for every meal and every satisfaction for your hunger to be perfectly planned, when you go there make sure to plan your meals along with your daily program, don’t ever miss the chance. Ready?! Set! Dig!

Happy wayfaring.

About the Author

Moamen M. Bakry

Moamen M. Bakry

Moamen Bakry is an Egyptian senior marketer and advertiser. He studied advertising in Romania, and some Engineering in Egypt. He’s an explorer with a passion for nature, socialization and food. He looks for beauty wherever it lies and takes interest into sharing his experiences with others and describing the whole thing especially with juicy and fatty foods.