If you’re in Cairo, you have to try the street food at least once. It’s eaten by locals every day, so you are guaranteed high-quality ingredients and an authentic taste of the city. It’s also great for those travelling on a budget, and many of the dishes are vegetarian-friendly. Here’s a list of street-food delicacies you should try while you’re in Cairo.
If one meal can be considered the national dish of Egypt, it’s foul medames. It’s made with cooked fava beans, combined with various Egyptian spices and traditionally served in pitta bread. You can also have an egg added for more richness. Locals typically eat foul medames for breakfast, as it’s a hearty, protein-rich dish that can fill you up for the day. Egyptians traditionally eat it with taameya, an Egyptian falafel made of fava beans – and you can find these two at almost every street vendor in the city. Hungry to try some? Felfela, on Sharia Hoda Shaarawi Street, makes a delicious foul medames.
Kushari is a uniquely Egyptian dish made with a mixture of rice, macaroni or spaghetti, lentils and chickpeas, covered with a spicy tomato sauce. Some places also add vinegar for an added kick. It’s sometimes considered the poor man’s meal because it’s very filling and inexpensive. There are a number of famous kushari shops; however, Sayed Hanafi in downtown Cairo serves one of the most delicious kushari anywhere in the city.
Taameya, an Egyptian falafel made with fava beans instead of chickpeas, is a common breakfast across Egypt; however, you can find it served at all times of the day. The dish, which is quite filling, is said to have been invented by the Copts as an alternative food to eat during Ramadan. Nowadays, it’s enjoyed all over the Middle East.
Kofta kebabs are the street-food version of Egyptian kofta, which are lamb or goat meatballs. Kofta kebabs – minced lamb or goat mixed with onion and spices – are put on metal skewers before being grilled. This makes it a perfect street-food snack as the skewers can be picked up and eaten straight away.
Fiteer, sometimes known as Egyptian pancakes, are made of many layers of thin, filo-like pastry. They can be sweet or savoury and are usually served in one piece. The best fiteer in Cairo is at Tawfiqiyya Souq – the fruit and vegetable market downtown, which is usually open from the early hours until midnight.
Hawawshi is an Egyptian dish similar to the Turkish lahmacun. It is made with cooked minced meat, onions and chillies, which are then put between two layers of dough and roasted in a wooden oven and sliced into crusty bites. It may also be served in sit-down restaurants, where it comes whole.
Sound tempting? You’ll have the chance to sample authentic Egyptian cuisine in Cairo on Culture Trip’s immersive 10-day Egypt adventure, led by our local insider.