Known for its flavoursome food, Egypt is home to a host of amazing restaurants. And since Cairo is the capital, you’ll find many luxurious restaurants featuring various kinds of food here. However, Cairo is also a foodie-friendly destination when it comes to budget travellers. From veggies and carbs to juicy meat, there is something for everyone. Here’s a guide to Cairo’s best cheap eats, which will manage to keep your pockets full.
Considered a staple food around here, this is the cheapest you can eat while in Egypt. Foul is cooked with fava beans and is usually served with vegetables and tahini. It is also served with loads of other additions including eggs, parsley, garlic, lemon and even sausage. Most Egyptians consider it a breakfast meal and they either eat it in a sandwich or as a dish with bread. Foul costs around EGP 2.5 per sandwich and keeps your tummy full for a long time. Famous for its delicious foul, El Tabei El Domyati is one of the most prominent restaurants in Cairo. They also serve plenty of other different dishes, aside from foul, to suit every taste including affordable breakfast and lunch varieties. Luckily, El Tabei El Domyati has over seven branches in Cairo, so one can be found at almost every corner.
Taameya, or falafel, is another prominent Egyptian street food that is usually ordered with foul for breakfast and costs around the same price. Around the world, people use ground chickpeas to make taameya; however, in Egypt, it is made with dried fava beans. Like foul, it is commonly served with vegetables and tahini. It is also sometimes served with foul inside the same sandwich, which is indeed fulfilling. El Gahsh restaurant, which is located in El Sayeda Zeinab, serves one of the most luscious taameyas in town. It is a favourite among many residents and foreigners alike and many come to visit from different areas. The local restaurant has a variety of dishes including foul, omelets, potatoes and more; however, its top specialty is taameya with stuffed vegetables.
Speaking about fulfilling dishes, the prize definitely goes to koshary. This legendary dish is made out of pasta, lentils and rice, all mixed together and topped with chickpeas, crispy fried onions, tomato sauce, garlic vinegar and optional hot sauce. The idea of the dish seems terrifying; however, it’s one of Egypt’s most delicious street foods. Since it’s a national dish, you will find several restaurants selling it at every corner. Nevertheless, Koshary El Tahrir is considered a top restaurant if you’d like to try this dish. Their koshary costs around EGP 5 to 15, depending on your plate size.
One of Egypt’s mouthwatering dishes is the liver and sausage sandwich. Both kinds of sandwiches blend perfectly and are usually, if not always, ordered together. Liver and sausage food carts are famous in Cairo to the extent that restaurants adopted the idea of these food carts and started selling liver and sausage sandwiches as well as dishes at higher prices. They are sold in Egyptian mini baguettes with tahini and chilli peppers or as a dish with chilli peppers and lime wedges. Alexandrian liver and sausages are also a hit in Cairo, which were originally adopted from the city of Alexandria in Egypt. Ezz El Menoufy, which started as a simple street food cart, is one of the most famous restaurants for enjoying liver and sausages today. Their liver and sausage sandwiches cost around EGP 7 each.
Another local Egyptian dish that is favoured by almost everyone is hawawshy. It is a traditional Egyptian dish that can be described as stuffed bread with minced meat. The minced meat is full of flavour as it is marinated with Egyptian spices. It is cooked with onions, parsley, pepper and hot chilli pepper and then, the flat Egyptian bread is stuffed with this mixture and thrown into the oven. This sandwich is slightly more expensive than the dishes mentioned above. Located in the heart of Cairo in Downtown, Hawawshy Shalaby sells this dish/sandwich for EGP 15. It can cost slightly more if you add some mozzarella to it.
Whenever an Egyptian living abroad reminisces about Egypt and its delicious food, homemade okra, mousaka’a, molokhia and freek all cross their mind. These dishes feature diverse ingredients and spices and each tantalizes all of your taste buds leaving you in awe. If you ever attend an Egyptian fiesta at a friend’s home, their dining table will surely have one of these cooked vegetables on display. Located in different areas around Cairo, El Omda sells some of the best cooked vegetables, which cost around EGP 25 per dish. These dishes are usually served with either rice or bread on the side.
Thanks to the many Syrians that arrived in Cairo in the past years, the capital has not only been filled with their charm but also with their incredible food, including shawarma. True, shawarma has been around even before Syrians; however, since the dish is originally a Syrian one, it has spread around the city tremendously. Shawarma is made of beef, turkey, lamb or chicken and is placed on a spit, where it’s cooked on it while rotating for hours. It is usually served inside of a tortilla-like Syrian bread or an Egyptian baguette with vegetables and tahini. One of the best restaurants selling shawarma in Cairo, which is obviously a Syrian one, is Abou Ramez El Soury. They have a variety of choices, where you can either order shawarma as a sandwich or as a dish. Their shawarma sandwiches, which are ordered frequently, cost around EGP 23.
One of Egypt’s main dishes is feteer, which is considered an Egyptian pizza or pancake. It is made out of dough, stuffed with different flavours and thrown into the oven. Feteer has two amusing things about it: first is the show the chef creates while cooking the dish, as they rotate the dough in circles, throw it up high, catch it, put the stuffing inside and throw it into the oven. Second, it is both savoury and sweet, leaving everyone with a diverse variety to choose from. Luckily, Cairo has loads of feteer outlets to fill your tummy and one of the top restaurants selling this dish is definitely El Dawar. Prices differ in cost depending on your choice of stuffing and size, varying between EGP 10 and EGP 80.
Not only can this type of bread be found on every corner, it can also be found on most streets, in traffic areas and even on highways – it literally haunts Cairo. This snack is an Egyptian pretzel that is called semeet in Arabic. Since pretzels are light and easy to carry around, Egyptians have taken advantage of Cairo’s traffic and started selling semeet during rush hour for hungry Egyptians stuck in traffic. Residents don’t only like to eat them during traffic, but also for breakfast and sometimes during dinner, too. They’re delicious and they only cost around EGP 2 to EGP 5. And, since they’re a favourite among many, you can also buy them at the well-known Egyptian bakery, Latif Wassily Bakery, which is located in Downtown, Cairo.
This dessert may not be of Egyptian origin, but it sure is pretty famous in and around Cairo. Rice pudding can be found in different areas of the world and it is made from rice mixed with water and milk in addition to other optional ingredients such as raisins, nuts and cinnamon. Recipes vary depending on every country. In Cairo, it is mostly made boiled and then put in the fridge to hold itself together. Saber, one of the foremost restaurants selling rice pudding in Cairo, serves it in different ways, either plain or with nuts. The best topping is vanilla ice cream, making it extra creamy and delicious. A plain rice pudding costs around EGP 15.