Egyptian cuisine makes heavy use of legumes, vegetables and fruit from Egypt’s rich Nile Valley and Delta. It shares similarities with the food of the Eastern Mediterranean region, such as rice-stuffed vegetables, grape leaves, shawerma, kebab and kofta. Examples of Egyptian dishes include ful medames, mashed fava beans; kushari, lentils and pasta; and molokhiya, bush okra stew. Pita bread, known locally as eish baladi is a staple of Egyptian cuisine, and cheesemaking in Egypt dates back to the First Dynasty of Egypt, with domty being the most popular type of cheese consumed today.
Common meats in Egyptian cuisine are rabbit, pigeon, chicken, and duck. Lamb and beef are frequently used for grilling. Offal is a popular fast food in cities, and foie gras is a delicacy that has been prepared in the region since at least 2500 BCE. Fish and seafood are common in Egypt’s coastal regions. A significant amount of Egyptian cuisine is vegetarian, due to both the historically high price of meat and the needs of the Coptic Christian community, whose religious restrictions require essentially vegan diets for much of the year.
Tea is the national drink of Egypt, and beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage. While Islam is the majority faith in Egypt and observant Muslims tend to avoid alcohol, alcoholic drinks are still readily available in the country.
Popular desserts in Egypt include baqlawa, basbousa, and kunafa. Common ingredients in desserts include dates, honey, and almonds.
Egyptian National Dishes
Ful medames (other spellings include ful mudammas and foule mudammes), or simply fūl, is a stew of cooked fava beans served with vegetable oil, cumin, and optionally with chopped parsley, garlic, onion, lemon juice, chili pepper and other vegetable, herb and spice ingredients. It is notably a staple food in Egypt, especially in the northern cities of Cairo and Gizah. Ful medames is also a common part of the cuisines of many Arab, Middle Eastern and African cultures, including in Djibouti, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Ethiopia, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and Saudi Arabia.
Kushari, also koshari, is an Egyptian dish originally made in the 19th century, made of rice, macaroni, and lentils mixed together, topped with a spiced tomato sauce and garlic vinegar and garnished with chickpeas and crispy fried onions. Sprinklings of garlic juice, garlic vinegar and hot sauce are optional.
Mulukhiyah or mulukhiyyah is the leaves of Corchorus olitorius, commonly known as Jew’s mallow, Nalta jute, or tossa jute. It is used as a vegetable. It is popular in Middle East, East African and North African countries. Mulukhiyah is rather bitter, and when boiled, the resulting liquid is a thick, highly mucilaginous broth; it is often described as “slimy”, rather like cooked okra. Mulukhiyah is generally eaten cooked, not raw, and is most frequently turned into a kind of soup or stew, typically bearing the same name as the vegetable in the local language. Traditionally mulukhiyah is cooked with chicken or at least chicken stock for flavor and is served with white rice, accompanied with lemon or lime.
Falafel (or felafel) is a deep-fried ball, or a flat or doughnut-shaped patty, made from ground chickpeas, fava beans, or both. Herbs, spices, and onion relatives are commonly added to the dough. It is an Egyptian dish as well as a very famous Middle Eastern dish, that most likely originated in Egypt. The fritters are now found around the world as part of vegetarian cuisine, and as a form of street food.
Falafel balls are commonly served in a pita, which acts as a pocket, or wrapped in a flatbread, also known in western Arab countries as taboon. Falafel also frequently refers to a wrapped sandwich prepared with falafel balls laid over a bed of salad or pickled vegetables and drizzled with hot sauce or a tahini sauce. Falafel balls may also be eaten alone as a snack, or served as part of an assortment of appetizers known as a meze.