Koshary Abou Tarek, Cairo

Last week a friend and I took an impromptu trip to Egypt, and our food findings were almost as exciting as the pyramids and tombs we saw! Koshary (kushary, kuchari- the spelling changes depending on where you are) is one of Egypt’s most popular dishes, and after visiting Koshary Abou Tarek, we understood why. Abou Tarek itself is a legend in Cairo- what started as a small food cart has now taken up residence in a building in central Cairo and spans multiple floors. However, the premise of the place remains the same- koshary is the only dish they serve, and it is still prepared in the same manner as it was in the original food cart. I had no idea what koshary was when we walked into the restaurant- my friend went up to the counter and ordered us two small bowls, which were at our table in a matter of minutes. I poked around the dish for a few seconds to figure out what was actually in it…it was a strange combination of spaghetti and macaroni noodles, topped with lentils and a bit of rice. All of this was under a thick layer of chili-garlic sauce, and the entire thing was topped with a generous portion of crispy onions. Now separately I like most of these things, but I was fairly hesitant about how I’d feel about them combined. After adding lemon juice and more chili sauce from the two jugs on the table (we saw a bunch of locals doing this, so we followed their lead…classic tourists) I took the plunge. After the first bite all of my previous reservations had vanished- somehow this strange, strange combination of things was incredibly delicious. Which I guess really shouldn’t be a surprise, since there was a line out the door! Every layer of the dish contributed something- my favourite part was the crunch of the onions, which were cooked just past carmelization and were absolutely fantastic. I’m tempted to try and make this dish at home sometime, I’ve already found myself craving it a few times since leaving Egypt…an absolute must if you are ever in Cairo!