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What Do Egyptians Eat?

Posted In: People.

The cuisine of Egypt is a real melting pot of Middle Eastern, African and European influences. People eat meat only sparingly, preferring to get their protein from eggs, beans and cheese. Bread is very popular in Egypt, and is consumed at every meal. It is subsidised by the government, so is widely available and cheap.

Ful medamesFul medames, Egyptian fava bean stew. Photo & recipe by Karoline Boehm Goodnick (view recipe).

What foods are popular in Egypt?

In terms of meals, shish kebab dishes are popular, as are green and tomato salads. People often dine on pita bread, hummus, baba ganoush (mashed aubergine) and a popular soft white cheese called gibna domiati. Popular vegetables include cauliflower, okra and cabbage. When Egyptians do eat meat, often it is something like pigeon, rabbit or lamb, or fish, like perch or tuna. Figs, pomegranates and oranges are popular fruit. Many dishes are served with rice and rice is often the main part of many dishes.

An Egyptian’s breakfast

The average Egyptian breakfast is a fava bean dip known as ful medames, and this is served with pita bread and eggs – usually scrambled or hard-boiled. To drink, there’s hot tea with milk.

Desserts in Egypt

Egyptians are very fond of sweet desserts and kunafa, a pastry made with layers of shredded wheat and nuts, bathed in syrup, is a popular choice. The famous baklava, made from layers of filo pastry, nuts and syrup is a common sight in Egypt and also around the world. Continuing the syrup theme is basbousa, a cake which is, as you may have guessed, syrup-soaked.

Popular drinks

Milky tea is popular, as is Turkish coffee and a licorice root drink called irk sus. Fruit juices are very common, with the most popular being pomegranate, tamarind and sugarcane. You’ll see them being sold by street vendors.

KoshariKoshari, Egyptian rice, lentils and macaroni with spicy tomato chile sauce. Photo and recipe by Kimberley (view recipe).

How about national dish?

Kushari is seen as the national dish. It’s made from pasta and tomato sauce, as well as lentils, rice, caramelized onions, chickpeas and garlic. It’s a very popular lunchtime option, and oddly enough, isn’t even Egyptian! Kushari was introduced into Egypt by the British Army in the 19th century, and represents the perfect blending of different cultures in one bowl – Italian, Asian, South American and British.

Do they have a national drink?

The national drink of Egypt is tea, and while breakfast tea is often served with milk, the rest of the time tea is black, and strong, and very sweet indeed. You’ll usually get it in a glass. Coffee is popular too, but nowhere near as much as tea.

Varieties of tea in Egypt

There are two varieties of Egyptian tea, Saiidi and Koshary. Koshary is popular in Northern Egypt, and is prepared by brewing a small amount of tea in boiled water for a few minutes. It’s often served with mint leaves and sugar, and is light in colour and flavour. There’s less than half a teaspoonful of tea in each cup. Saiidi tea, preferred in Southern Egypt, is quite the opposite, as two or so teaspoonfuls of tea per cup is boiled over a hot flame for at least five minutes. This is heavy, bitter, black tea and has to be drunk with lots of sugar.

Foods that Egyptians don’t eat

As most of the population of Egypt is Muslim, alcohol and pork products aren’t on the menu. Alcohol may be served in the more expensive restaurant and hotels, however, but mainly to tourists and ex-pat workers.