From the Streets of Cairo 5

I’m Egyptian, but was born and raised in Qatar. Kushari is the first dish I had on the street in Cairo the first time I went out with my cousins when I was 12 years old. They sold it in a plastic bag. You had to puncture the bag and squeeze the food out of it into your mouth. It was (and still is) the best Kushari I had in my life, but I wouldn’t dare tell my mother that we ate food in such a place! Every summer we vacationed in Egypt, I had to go there. A few years later, they opened a restaurant and started serving it in plates. It takes quite a bit of work to make this dish, so we will be offering it as a daily special at Yuyu’s Cozy Corner, most Tuesdays.

Kushari (serves 5)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups rice
  • 2 cups green lentils
  • 2 cups pasta
  • 1 cup chickpeas, boiled
  • 50 ml vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 1.5 tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • ¼ tbsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 7 cups water

Red Sauce

  • 1 medium-sized diced tomato
  • 4 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp. minced garlic
  • ¼ tbsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cups water
  • Option for a spicy sauce, add fresh Jalapenos

Vinegar side sauce (Da’a)

  • (Optional, as some people find this sauce too strong)
  • 2 tbsp. minced garlic
  • 50 ml white vinegar
  • ¼ tsp.salt
  • ½ tsp. cumin
  • 100 ml water

Directions:

In a large, non-stick pan, cut the half onion into thin wedges and fry it in 50 ml. of vegetable oil on low heat until it becomes crispy and the color is black.

Strain the onion from the oil and put it on a plate that has been covered with a paper towel to dry the oil out.

In the same pan that has the oil, add the garlic, cumin, salt and black pepper, and stir for 1 minute. Add the lentils and stir. Add 4 cups of water to the pot. Raise the heat until water boils, then lower the heat and cover the pot for around 30 minutes or until lentils become soft.

Add the rice and 3 cups of water to the pot; mix all the ingredients in the pot, then cover and let it cook on low heat for around 30 minutes or until the rice is done.

Separately, boil the pasta and rinse it.

Wash the chickpeas (an 8 oz. can would do) and heat in fresh water.

Vinegar Side Sauce (Da’a)

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the Da’a (if desired) by mixing together the vinegar, garlic, salt, cumin and water.

Red Sauce

Prepare the Red Sauce while the rice is cooking, as it’s best served hot.

Place the oil and the garlic in a saucepan and stir until the garlic gains some color, then add salt, black pepper and diced tomato and stir for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and water. Keep stirring until the mixture becomes thicker.

Serving Instructions 
and Recommendations

Put 2 cups of the lentil and rice mixture on a plate. Top it with half cup pasta, top it with 2 or 3 tbsp. of red sauce, add 1 or 2 tbsp. of onion, 1 tbsp. of chickpeas and, if desired, add 1 tbsp. of vinegar sauce.

Karak (serves 5)

Although this is an Indian drink, it is one of the most popular drinks in Qatar, where I grew up. You usually find it in small coffee shops that are similar to corner stores.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbsp. loose-leaf cardamom black tea
  • 2 cups evaporated milk, unsweetened 
(evaporated milk can be replaced by whole milk 
or half-and-half)
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tbsp. sugar

Directions:

Put the water and tea in a pan and heat on high on the stove until the water boils, then lower the heat for 10 minutes. Add milk and sugar and stir until it the mixture boils, then turn off the heat. Strain the mixture to remove the loose tea leaves. Serve hot.