January 14, 2004

Egyptian Food Revisited

Hani pointed out my very stupid mistake of mixing up fu'ul which is NOT bread, but rather native beans, and shami which is the word for the bread I was disparaging. He also pointed out that shami's a uniquely delta culture bread and it's got a lot of history on its side. Apparently the recipe and manner of making it are older than the ptolemic tombs I saw in Siwa, and older than most of the things I ogled in the antiquities museum. So, that's actually really cool. I think I was perhaps too hard on the stuff because I was more than just a little annoyed with it after the last couple of days of the trip, where it was all that I could eat due to the stomach bug...

Hani also asked for a quick rundown of what else we ate since he doesn't normally hear of people complaining about the food. So, here goes. For the most part, we subsisted off of granola bars, and random sandwiches/pizzas/croissants at cafes. But, we did intersperse a few more memorable meals into the trip, including:

Aladin (inside the Sheraton Cairo Towers) morrocan food. Shami. Grilled chicken/fish with couscous. Good, but nothing to write home about.

A kebab joint in khan el khalili (but unfortunately not the Khan el Khalili cafe, which were were trying to find, but couldn't). The lamb was a very dry mixture of ground meat and spices. R was the only one who ordered lamb and decided to skip it because it scared him. The chicken was good, but not amazing by any stretch. Shami, hummos, vegetables and rice were average.

Cafe Riche (Midan Talaat Harb, Cairo) - good tehina, average to forgetable shami and main courses of chicken over rice and moussaka. The history of the place and collection of intellectuals all discussing politics and philosophy made it a memorable cool experience.

Al Dabke (Inside the Sheraton Heliopolis) - Lebanese food. Good food according to R, I was too sick to eat...The belly dancer was awkward, seemed to have about 5 moves that she kept repeating in various orders and was not very adebt with her hips (believe it or not). But the musicians accompanying the dancing were amazing, particularly the drummer and singer.

Denus (Alexandria) Greek Restaurant, excellent meals of fried perch and fried calamari, pommes frites, tehina, shami and tomatoes/red onions. The staff was wonderfully friendly and insisted on complimenting my Arabic, which was obviously a ploy to be nice to the tourists (that worked!) since my arabic literally consists of 8 words (one of which is not "bread," in case you couldn't tell).

Aethenos (Alexandria) Greek Restaurant, the fish wasn't as good as denus and the same style of meal didn't come with the tomatoes and red onions, but the ambiance, view of the corniche and dedication of the servers was better.

Alexander (Siwa): shami and good native siwan boiled green vegetable dish, flavored with garlic that started with an m/mim. The texture was somewhere near cooked cactus or boiled okra.

Restaurant on top of the Shali Lodge (Siwa): shami, vegetable couscous, grilled chicken, rice, tehina-cucumber-tomato salad. One of the better meals of the trip, both the chicken and the couscous were mildly spiced.

In ground barbeque hosted by palm trees hotel (Siwa): shami, barbequed goat that was dry and unseasoned, tomato/cucumber/red onion salad that was average, and yellow rice that was undercooked. Worst meal of the trip. We agreed before we knew the price and ended up paying way too much. The meal immediately preceding my night of intestinal hell, and most likely to have caused it (although no one else who went got sick... so who knows?)

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