I left for Cairo via Amman, Jordan on Friday at noon. Today is Tuesday at 10:00 a.m. and I have had falafel for at least one meal every day since Friday. I am going to die.
Falafel crammed into pockets of poofy, pita-like “aish” bread. Falafel flattened and dotted with sesame seeds, then served with aish. Fried zucchini flowers and vegetables stuffed in aish. Foul, a fava bean spread make with plenty of spices and tucked into, you guessed it, aish. I’ve seen countless men weaving bikes down crowded streets; carrying a 4×5 plastic tray piled with aish on their head.
Baklava, kunafa and basbousa desserts: all phyllo, honey and nuts. Then the real 1-2 punch to my glycemic index: kushari.
Kushari is the ultimate poor man’s lunch. Spaghetti or macaroni noodles mixed with rice, lentils, chick peas and bulgar wheat, topped with fried onions. Add green minty sauce or red tomato and pepper flake (spicy and a bit smoky) sauce and the carbs have a nice kick. A bowl of kushari costs a whopping $1, though to be fair it probably costs less to prepare. It could become even more important to Egypt’s working poor, as Egyptians may soon lose access to the subsidized aish bread that keeps them alive and honking.
The surprising thing about kushari for me was that it actually tastes good, and not just like noodles. College students across the world unite! It’s also one of the few foods that Egypt can claim to really own, whereas falafel and baklava have other origins. Other national Egyptian dishes include pigeon and some kind of goopy kumallow soup.
In case you were wondering, I’ll be going out for Lebanese food tonight.