Last year, friends of ours decided to go on an Egyptian expedition. While we had no doubt that the land of the pyramids and pharaohs will welcome them with glorious monuments, enticing desert, opulent delta, and the mighty Nile, we were really worried that they may have to starve their way through Egypt considering they aren’t just vegetarians, but also vegan. On the contrary they came back with stories of how they feasted deliciously on falafel, date cookies, fresh fruit, koshary, cashew ice cream, caramel latte with cashew and almond milk, tahini, baba ganoush and hummus, and did not have to go hungry at all.
Our dish in focus today is Koshary/Kushari – the Egyptian national dish and the most popular street food consisting of rice, pasta, noodles and lentils. Small yellow lentils and rice are slowly simmered in a rich stock with the addition of crunchy, fried vermicelli and butter-browned onions. Before being served kushari is topped with a spicy sauce based on tomatoes or chilies, thereby making it more flavorful. Non-Vegetarians prefer adding ground meat while Alexandrians like making the dish with macaroni. The dish is garnished with mastic, an exotic, earthy, crystallized resin cultivated only in Greece, but available across the Mediterranean. Usually a green salad or a cup of hot mint tea is served as an accompaniment to Kushari. If Kushari sounds like Khichdi, let’s tell you, that’s where the name stems from!