Egyptian cuisine is distinct for the large number of ingredients used to make up the delicious taste of every dish. Take Koshary, for instance. Koshary is Egypt’s national dish and the idol of street food. Everybody loves it. Everybody eats it. It is affordable and available pretty much everywhere.
A closer look at the recipe will tell the secret of Koshary’s large popularity: the variety of ingredients.
A Koshary dish, layered from bottom to top, comprises rice and brown lentils, macaroni, spaghetti, chickpeas, and caramelised onions, all topped with tomato sauce. On the side, vinegar tomato sauce and spicy sauce are served along with Koshary; yet, their addition and the quantity are left to personal preferences. And for a perfect eating experience, Koshary must be followed by a bowl of Vanilla Rice Pudding.
That applies to so many other Egyptian dishes. Whether the ingredients are main such as pasta and rice or secondary like herbs, spices, and sauces, each of them adds a different flavour as well as a nutritious value and helps build up the full rich taste of the dish.
Rice happens to be the king of all ingredients. Sometimes, it is served independently along with the main course. Other times, it makes up the main course itself. Consequently, it is cooked in a variety of ways with many other ingredients that give it a different taste accordingly.
Such large popularity of rice can be attributed to its wide production in Egypt. In fact, Egypt is the number one rice producer in Africa with a production of more than six million tons annually.
Like tourism and the Suez Canal, rice is a big source of income for Egypt as one of its most potential export crops. It is top quality, highly nutritious, tasty, and affordable.
Egyptian rice is also different from the rice grown in the rest of Africa and totally different from the basmati rice that is highly consumed in West Asian countries such as Saudi Arabia, the rest of the Gulf countries, as well as Iran.
Egyptian rice is short or medium-grained. It has more starch than basmati rice which translates to it cooking soft and sticky. Egyptian rice is also used to make both savoury and sweet dishes which give it another point against the long, dry basmati rice.
One interesting thing about the different Egyptian rice dishes is that each of them is tightly associated with a certain main course. In other words, no rice dish can replace another. Such a thing is inherently prohibited. Each dish is just perfect where it is.
That said, we bring you today seven different ways rice is cooked in Egyptian cuisine. We hope you try and enjoy them.
1. Khalta Rice
This dish is the king in the buffets of different occasions and receptions. Whether it is a wedding, an engagement party, a Ramadan Iftar, or a family dinner, Khalta Rice is always there.
This dish might be a little confusing, though. It is classified as savoury but it actually tastes a little sweet. Also, it is the main course in and of itself; yet, it usually comes along with other beef dishes since it is served on special occasions where a large variety of the best dishes of Egyptian cuisine is usually served.
Making Khalta Rice is not complicated; however, one should be quite careful with the ingredients and how they are cooked. Tiny changes can accumulate to give you a different result than desired.
- 3 cups of Egyptian rice
- 1/2 kilo of beef liver, cut into small cubes
- 3 tablespoons of sugar
- 3 teaspoons of Egyptian black honey
- 1 large minced onion
- 3 minced cloves of garlic
- 6 cups of chicken or lamb stock (if not available, use water with one cube of chicken broth)
- 2 cloves of cardamom
- 2 Lauro leaves
- 2 cloves of piper cubeba
- 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1/4 cup of raisins
- 1/4 cup of peeled almonds
- 1/4 cup of peanuts, walnuts, or pecans
- 1/4 teaspoon of allspice
- 4 tablespoons of ghee
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- Salt and ground black pepper
Put the rice in a large bowl and add water until it is half full. Use your hand to clean the rice. Pour off the water and repeat the process five or six times until the rice has drained all of its starch and the water comes out clean. Add in more water and soak the rice for around 15-30 minutes. After that, drain the water completely before using the rice.
To prepare the nuts, you need to add one tablespoon of ghee to a large pan and add the almonds and whatever other nuts you have. Stir them for a couple of minutes to roast then finally add the raisins. Give them another stir for a minute then take them out in a separate bowl. Leave them aside for now.
In the same pan, combine one tablespoon of oil and the minced onions. Stir fry the onions until they start to change colour. Then add the piper cubeba, cardamom, and Lauro leaves. Adding them as full cloves and leaves without crushing makes the flavour even stronger. Stir until the onions are light brown then turn off the heat.
In a large cooking pot, add one tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of ghee on medium-high heat. Once the ghee melts, toss the rice. Stir the rice for around five minutes until it is light brown. The next step is to add one minced clove of garlic with half a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of ground black pepper, and another half a teaspoon of cinnamon.
Keep stirring as the rice colour gets brownier.
What is so special about this recipe is the sweet caramel taste of the rice. For that, we will add the sugar along with the black honey and stir them until well blended with the rice.
Now it is time to cook the rice. Add the hot chicken or lamb stock to the rice on high heat and bring it to a boil. Then lower the heat and let the rice cook for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, add two tablespoons of oil to a pan. When it is heated, add the cubes of the liver. Stir fry them then add one minced clove of garlic and a little bit of salt, black pepper, and allspice. Stir for around five minutes or until the liver cubes are fully cooked.
Once the rice is cooked, turn off the heat and add half the amount of the roasted nuts from the beginning and mix them evenly with the rice.
The last step is to move the rice to a serving platter and top it with the rest of the nuts and fried liver cubes.
2. Vermicelli Rice
This is one top rice dish that is consumed in Egyptian houses, almost for luch on a daily basis: rice with vermicelli. Vermicelli, which is sometimes called lattice pasta, is a carbohydrate-rich ingredient; a type of pasta that is almost exclusively produced in Egypt. It is like incredibly thin spaghetti but broken. Though it is not spaghetti.
Vermicelli Rice is usually served with all Egyptian vegetable stews. These include Egyptian okra stew, pea/carrot stew, white bean stew, green bean stew, and spinach stew; all of them with a base of onion tomato sauce. Such a rice dish is also served with the famous Mulukhiyah Soup.
Here is how to make it.
- 2 cups of Egyptian rice
- 1/2 lattice pasta
- 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon of butter
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 2 1/2 cups of chicken or lamb stock (if not available, water and a cube of chicken broth will do)
The first step is always the same: clean the rice multiple times and soak it in water for 30 minutes before using it. Drain the water off and leave the rice aside.
In a cooking pot, combine the oil and butter on medium heat and stir until the butter melts. Then add the lattice pasta. Stir it with a spatula frequently for around two minutes or until the broken lattice pasta turns golden brown.
The next step is to add the rice to the pot. On medium-high heat, mix the rice well with the brown lattice until it is evenly distributed. Pour in two and a half cups of boiling chicken stock. If this is not available, you can add the same amount of water with a cube of chicken broth. Then add the salt.
Stir the rice and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for a couple of minutes until some of the stock is absorbed. Give the rice a final stir, lower the heat, cover it with the lid and let it cook for around 20 minutes. Do not uncover the rice during this period; otherwise, you are risking breaking the ice grains and turning them into mush.
After around 20 minutes, the rice should be cooked. Turn off the heat and let it settle for five to 10 minutes before serving. As we mentioned earlier, Vermicelli Rice is never consumed alone but is rather served with vegetable stews or Mulukhiyah Soup.
Vermicelli Rice is also used to make Koshary as one of the many components alongside the pasta. Though, in such a case, it must be combined with brown lentils.
3. Sayyadia Rice
Sayyadia Rice is the Egyptian name for brown rice. This is another way to cook rice that is completely different from the two rice dishes we mentioned earlier. Sayyadia Rice is usually served with seafood, primarily fish. It is commonly consumed with the fried Nile or Mediterranean Tilapia fish along with Salata Baladi or Egyptian salad.
This brown rice recipe is quite simple to make and the result is so tasty, distinct, and inherently suitable for seafood. So let’s hop into it.
- 2 cups of Egyptian rice
- 2 cups of water
- 1 large minced onion
- 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
As usual, add the rice to a large bowl and clean it with water. Stir it again and again until it drains most of its heavy starch. Then you should soak the rice in water for 30 minutes to an hour. Pour the water and set the rice aside for now.
Next, in a cooking pot, combine the oil on medium-high heat with the minced onion. Stir frequently for around five minutes until the onions become brown. Then, add the tomato paste. It will add extra savoury flavour to the rice.
Keep stirring until the onions turn dark brown. Do not be afraid if they look burned. This dark colour is what gives the rice a beautiful brown colour. It will go lighter anyway when cooked. Just make sure the onions are not burned.
Now you should add the rice to the onions. With a spatula, mix it well with the onions. You will see that its white colour starts to change to light brown. Keep stirring until the onions are completely and evenly mixed with the rice grains. Pour in the hot water and the salt. Stir.
Bring the rice to a boil and leave it for a minute. Then lower the heat and cover the pot and let the rice cook for 25 minutes. Avoid uncovering the rice while cooking as this will make it get pulpy.
Once the rice is cooked, let it settle in the pot for around five minutes. Serve hot with seafood.
4. Meammar Rice
Or baked rice.
Meammar rice is an original, tasty, and rich-in-ingredients Egyptian rice dish. It is very common in the countryside and upper Egypt where it is usually baked in a traditional Egyptian clay oven whose fuel is not gas but dried palm leaves. That said, it can surely be baked in electric ovens
Secondly, this dish is different because it can be made either salty or sweet. The same recipe applies to both flavours. The only thing you need to do is replace salt with sugar.
To have the best Meammar Rice, however, it is highly recommended you use an oven clay pot to bake the rice. If this is not available, an aluminium or Pyrex pan is your second best option.
- 4 cups of Egyptian rice
- 6 cups of whole fat fresh milk
- 1 tablespoon of salt
- 3 tablespoons of butter or ghee
- 5 tablespoons of fresh milk cream
Interestingly, there is no sauteing, cooking, simmering, or boiling in this recipe. All the ingredients will just be mixed in the baking pan right away.
The first step is always cleaning the rice multiple times and soaking it in water for 30 minutes. Once you drain the water off, add the rice to the pan followed by the salt.
Next is to add the milk. Stir the rice then add the butter and stir again. Let the rice soak in the milk for around 30 minutes to an hour before baking. Once it is ready, add the cream to the top. The butter and cream are what makes this baked rice very rich so they are literally indispensable.
Turn on the grill and heat the oven for 10 minutes then place the rice pan on the middle rack. Bring the rice to a boil and leave it until it forms a nice golden brown layer on the top. Then turn off the grill and turn on the oven. Move the pan to the lower rack and let the rice cook for 20 minutes on low heat.
After that, the rice will be completely cooked and mushy. Take it out of the oven and let it sit for 10 minutes before consuming. Meammar Rice is usually served with baked potatoes and chicken.
Sweet Meammar Rice is no different. The same ingredients are used with the tablespoon of salt replaced with sugar, added according to personal preferences and a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
- Meammar Rice should always be baked on low heat. High heat will just cause the milk to evaporate quickly before the rice cooks.
- Some people like to use chicken stock along with the milk to add extra savoury flavour.
5. Turmeric Rice
This is a recipe on the go. It is simple. It is easy. And it is perfect for busy days.
Turmeric Rice is a great option if the ingredients for other rice dishes are not available. It can be served with a variety of other dishes too. Some people, for instance, like to eat it with sauteed chicken breasts topped with white or brown sauce. Others like to add sauteed shrimp to the rice. It also goes along with leftover vegetables or meat.
- 2 cups of Egyptian rice
- 1 tablespoon of Turmeric
- 1/2 tablespoon of curry
- 1/2 tablespoon of ground black pepper
- 1 medium-sized minced onion
- 1 minced clove of garlic
- 2 tablespoons of butter
- 2 limo amani
- 1 cube of chicken broth
- 2 cups of water
As we mentioned earlier, make sure you clean the rice and have it soaked in water for a while before using it.
Add two tablespoons of butter to a cooking pot and turn the heat to medium-high. Stir until the butter completely melts then add the minced onions. With a spatula, stir the onions for around three minutes or until they start to turn brown. Now add the turmeric, curry, and black pepper. Mix them all well. The onions should have a dark yellowish-brown colour by now.
Add the minced garlic, limo amani, and one cube of chicken broth to the onions. You can also add one teaspoon of powdered chicken broth or exclude it altogether and use chicken stock instead of water to cook the rice. Stir and mix.
Combine the rice with the spiced onions and stir it to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add the hot water and bring the rice to a boil. Once it boils, lower the heat, cover the rice and let it cook for 20 minutes or until it is completely done. Turn off the heat and wait at least five minutes before serving.
6. Red Rice
Or rice with spices, herbs, and tomato sauce.
This, in fact, is not a rice dish on its own but rather the main stuffing component of Mahshi—also known as stuffed vegetables. Mahshi is a very popular dish in Egypt and comes in many different varieties. There are stuffed eggplants, stuffed green bell peppers, stuffed zucchinis, stuffed tomatoes, stuffed onions, stuffed green cabbage rolls, and stuffed grape leave rolls—the latter is everyone’s favourite. All of those varieties are stuffed with red spiced rice.
Mahshi is another indispensable dish on occasions and especially on Ramadan Iftar invitations. Here is how to make Mahshi’s red rice stuffing.
- 3 cups of Egyptian rice
- 2 large minced onions
- 3 cloves of minced garlic
- 1 cup of tomato sauce
- 3 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
- 1 bunch of finely chopped parsley
- 1 bunch of finely chopped coriander
- 1/2 bunch of finely chopped dill
- 1/2 cup of tomato paste
- Salt, cumin, ground black pepper, dried coriander, and dried crushed mint
- 1/2 teaspoon of sugar
- 1/4 cup of vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup of butter
This recipe is simple because it does not require a lot of cooking. After all, the rice will have a chance to cook with the vegetables later on.
In a large cooking pot, add the oil and butter and give them a chance to heat and the butter to melt. Then add the minced garlic and stir it until it turns golden brown. Pour in the tomato sauce as well as the tomato paste and bring the mixture to a boil.
Now add the salt, sugar, pomegranate molasses, and whatever available spices and stir them until completely mixed with the tomato sauce. Once everything is homogenous, add the rice.
Lower the heat and with a spatula stir the rice to evenly mix it with the sauce. Leave it for a couple of minutes to absorb the liquid sauce and turn red. Remember, the rice should not be cooked at this stage. We just need it to absorb the sauce which is not much enough to cook the rice anyway.
Turn off the heat and add the chopped herbs to the rice. Stir until they are all well mixed. Now your red rice is ready for stuffing the vegetables.
7. Vanilla Rice Pudding
This is another sweet rice recipe.
Vanilla Rice Pudding is one of the tastiest and easy-to-make desserts. The ingredients are simple and always available. All it takes is only 15 minutes. And if you have pottery pudding basins, you can even bake it and get a better and tastier result.
Rice Pudding is also as popular as Koshary. No wonder they are served together or in consecutive order, to be more precise. The taste of vanilla is intensified after the rich garlic taste of Koshary.
- 1/2 cup of Egyptian rice
- 2 cups of water
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup of cream
- 6 cups of milk
- 1 packet of whipped cream
- 4 tablespoons of starch
- 1 cup of sugar
- Shredded coconuts
- Unsalted crushed pistachio or peanuts
- A pinch of salt
We need to prepare a couple of things before we get started with the recipe. First off, mix the starch with half a cup of milk in a small bowl and whisk them well until they are completely homogenous. Make sure there are no pumpings.
Secondly, in a different bowl, add the cream, whipped cream powder, and half a cup of milk and blend them well. Now leave these two mixtures aside for now.
Turn on the stove and add the rice and water to a cooking pot on high heat. Stir them with a spatula, and bring the rice to a boil. Let it simmer for some time until it becomes al dente; cooked but still firm.
Now take the pot off the heat and add in five cups of milk along with the sugar, starch/milk mix, and the bowl of cream and whipped cream. Stir them and put them back on high heat.
Add one teaspoon of vanilla extract and whisk the rice/milk mixture frequently. This is to avoid the rice sticking to the bottom of the pot. You should keep stirring for five minutes. It should start to thicken by now.
Next is to lower the heat, and let the pudding simmer for 10 more minutes. Continue to whisk as you see the rice starting to increase. Once the rice is fully cooked and the pudding is creamy and thick. Turn off the heat.
In pudding basins, spoon the Rice Pudding and let it sit for around 15 minutes. Then cover the basins with plastic wrap and move them to the fridge. If you have pottery basins, fill them with rice pudding and put them in a large oven pan that is half full with water. Turn on the oven grill (but not the oven itself) and place the pan on the upper rack for five minutes.
Once the top layer becomes golden brown, turn off the grill and take the pudding out of the oven. Again, let it sit for around 20 minutes then cover it and move it to the fridge.
Let the pudding chill for at least an hour. Before serving, sprinkle the shredded coconuts and top the pudding with raisins.