When one thinks of Egypt, the majestic pyramids, the Sphinx, and the winding Nile River often come to mind. But delve deeper into its rich culture, and you’ll find a culinary treasure that often goes unnoticed. Beyond the iconic Koshary and Molokhia lies an array of Egyptian side dishes that play an integral role in the Egyptian dining experience.
Let’s embark on a flavorful journey to explore these unsung heroes of Egyptian cuisine, where every bite tells a story of tradition, taste, and tantalising surprises. Whether you’re a food enthusiast or a curious traveller, there’s an
Egyptian side dish waiting to captivate your palate. Join us as we dig into the heart of Egypt’s culinary landscape, one side dish at a time.
Egyptian Moussaka, distinct from its Greek counterpart, celebrates layers of fried eggplant, peppers, and potatoes drenched in a rich tomato sauce. This hearty side dish is both comforting and flavoursome, embodying the warmth and depth of traditional Egyptian cuisine.
- Two eggplants, sliced.
- One green pepper, sliced.
- One tomato, thinly sliced.
- One potato, cut into sticks.
- Two tablespoons of tomato sauce dissolved in a cup of water.
- Two tablespoons of vegetable oil.
- One tablespoon of vinegar.
- One tablespoon of chilli sauce (or hot sauce).
- One teaspoon of salt.
- Half a teaspoon of black pepper.
- Two tablespoons of chopped parsley for garnish.
Frying the Vegetables
Fry the eggplant, pepper, and potatoes in deep oil until they’re golden. After frying, remove them and place them on paper towels to drain the excess oil.
Preparing the Sauce
- Put oil in a pot on the stove.
- Add garlic and sauté it.
- Add the tomato sauce dissolved in water.
- Season with salt, pepper, and chilli/hot sauce.
- Let it simmer on low heat until it boils and thickens.
Arranging the Fried Vegetables
- Arrange the fried vegetables in a baking dish.
- Pour the sauce over them.
- Lay the tomato slices on top of the eggplant.
Cooking the Moussaka
- Place the Egyptian Moussaka in the oven at 230°C (446°F).
- Bake for 30 minutes. Ensure you keep an eye on the sauce, adding water as needed so it doesn’t dry out.
Serving the Egyptian Moussaka
- Garnish the Moussaka with chopped parsley.
- Serve with traditional Egyptian bread (Baladi bread).
2. Egyptian Rokak
Egyptian Rokak is a savoury pastry dish made from layers of thin dough sheets filled with a flavorful minced meat mixture. Enhanced with onions, spices, and herbs, it is baked to golden brown perfection. This traditional dish offers a delightful blend of crispy pastry and juicy filling, making it a favourite in many Egyptian households.
- 12 sheets of Rokak (thin pastry sheets similar to phyllo dough).
- 1 tablespoon of melted native ghee (local clarified butter).
- 1 cup finely chopped parsley.
- 300 grams of minced meat.
- 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped.
- 3 tablespoons of native ghee (local clarified butter).
- 1 and a half cups of chicken or beef broth.
- A pinch of salt and black pepper.
- 1 teaspoon of mixed spices.
- Melt two tablespoons of ghee in a heated frying pan. Add the onion and minced meat, stirring the mixture until the meat’s water evaporates.
- Add the spices, seasonings, and parsley, and let the mixture cook.
- Grease a baking dish with half of the melted ghee.
- Heat the chicken or beef broth in a larger tray than the one you will use for baking the Rokak.
- Dip a sheet of Rokak in the broth, making sure to coat both sides. Place it in the greased baking dish, ensuring there are no gaps between the sheets.
- Repeat this step for the remaining Rokak sheets, layering them on top of one another until you’ve used half of them.
- Pour the minced meat mixture over the Rokak layers in the tray.
- Continue the same steps with the rest of the sheets, layering them over the meat. Brush the top layer with the remaining ghee.
- Press the sheets together to ensure they adhere to each other. If needed, pour the remaining broth around the edges of the tray.
- Preheat the oven to a high temperature and place the tray inside. Bake for about 20 minutes or until the surface turns a golden brown colour.
- Once out of the oven, cut the Rokak into equal-sized pieces and serve.’
3. Roz Maamar (Creamy Rice Casserole)
Roz Maamar is a traditional Egyptian rice casserole dish originating from the southern and rural parts of Egypt, where dairy products are abundant. It’s a straightforward, creamy rice dish, often baked in clay dishes for a distinct flavour. This dish offers a genuine taste of rural Egyptian cuisine, ideal for those keen to explore authentic flavours.
- 2 cups Egyptian rice
- 3 cups cold milk (preferably buffalo milk)
- 2 yoghurt packs
- 2 tablespoons cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- A pinch of sugar
- Prepare a casserole dish and grease it with butter, both on the base and all sides.
- Wash the rice thoroughly and drain well.
- Place the rice in the casserole and add milk to it, stirring well.
- Add salt and sugar, then mix again.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the yoghurt until its texture becomes creamy.
- Spread the whisked yoghurt evenly over the rice in the casserole.
- Add dollops of cream on top.
- Cover the casserole and let it sit in the mixture for an hour.
- Remove the cover and drizzle a spoonful of melted butter over the top.
- Preheat the oven to a 200°C degrees or 392°F.
- Place the casserole on the oven floor until the liquids are absorbed.
- Move the casserole from the oven floor to the middle rack to brown the top. Once the top is golden, remove it from the oven.
4. Warak Enab (Stuffed Vine Leaves)
Egyptian stuffed vine leaves, known locally as “Waraq Enab,” are a delicacy made by wrapping tender vine leaves around a flavorful filling of rice and herbs, sometimes with minced meat. A staple in Egyptian feasts, these bite-sized rolls are simmered in a tangy tomato or lemon broth, offering a harmonious blend of savoury filling and the slight bitterness of the leaf. Their origins trace back to the times of the Pharaohs, making them not just a dish but a bite of history.
- 0.5 kg fresh vine leaves
- 2 cups regular Egyptian rice
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 1 medium onion, diced or finely chopped
- 1 cup finely chopped mixed herbs for stuffing (dill, parsley, coriander)
- 1 cup chicken or beef broth
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon dried mint leaves
- Salt and black pepper
- 3 tablespoons of corn oil
- In a pot, add ample water and bring to a boil. Then, add a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt.
- Place the vine leaves in the boiling water for a minute until they change colour. Remove and place in a colander to cool while preparing the stuffing.
- For the stuffing, heat oil in a pot, add onions and sauté until translucent.
- Add tomato juice, salt, pepper, and mint, and let the mixture simmer.
- Once simmered, add the chopped herbs and washed rice. Stir well.
- Begin stuffing the vine leaves by cutting off the stems, laying them flat, and smoothing the sides down.
- Place a spoonful of the stuffing on the rough side of the leaf. Start folding from the right side over the stuffing, then the left, and roll from the bottom to the top.
- Arrange the stuffed leaves tightly in a cooking pot.
- Pour the broth over the stuffed leaves until they are fully submerged.
- Cook on medium heat for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for an additional 10 minutes.
- Increase the heat again for 5 minutes, pour lemon juice over the top, and cover the pot. Test the rice to see if it is fully cooked before turning off the heat.
In Egypt, sambousa is a cherished appetiser, often enjoyed during the holy month of Ramadan. Made from thin sambousa sheets, these pastries are filled with a bunch of ingredients, most commonly spiced minced meat or a mixture of cheese. Crispy after frying, Egyptian sambousa is a delightful mix of textures and flavours, making it a favourite at many festive gatherings.
- Sambousa sheets (similar to spring roll sheets)
- 0.5 kg minced meat
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon meat spices
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Oil for frying
- Start by preparing the filling. Let the oil heat in a pan over medium heat.
- Place the minced meat and stir until it changes colour.
- Place the chopped onion and season with salt, black pepper, and meat spices. Stir again.
- Stir in the chopped parsley, mix well, then set aside to cool.
- Lay flat one sambousa sheet, add one spoonful of filling and begin folding it into a triangular shape. Dip your finger in water, run it over the edge of the sheet and press it well. This step will keep the sambousa remain closed during frying.
- Repeat the process until all the dough and filling are used.
- Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan.
- Fry the sambousas, turning them over until they are golden brown.
- Remove the sambousa from the oil and place it on kitchen paper to drain the excess oil.
- Place the sambousa on a serving dish and serve.
6. Stuffed Pigeon (Hamam Mahshi Fereek)
Green durum-stuffed pigeons, an Egyptian culinary gem, combine tender pigeon meat with flavorful green durum grain. Often reserved for special occasions, this dish offers a delightful blend of textures and flavours, inviting diners to experience a true taste of Egypt’s rich gastronomic traditions.
- 8 boiled pigeons.
- 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
- 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper.
- 1 teaspoon of salt.
- 3 tablespoons of oil.
- 1 small onion, finely chopped.
- 1 medium-sized tomato, finely chopped.
- 1 cup of green durum (freekeh).
- 3 cups of hot water.
- Place the durum in a suitable bowl, wash it thoroughly under cold water, strain it to remove excess water, and set it aside.
- Heat the oil in a pot and sauté the onions until they become slightly soft. Then, add the durum and stir until it’s well-coated with the oil.
- Add water, pepper, turmeric, and salt to the durum. Cover and let it simmer for about 30 minutes on low heat until fully cooked. Make sure to put the pot lid on after the water starts boiling.
- Once the durum is done, mix half of its quantity with the chopped tomato on a plate. The remaining half should be reserved for serving.
- Stuff the pigeons with the durum and seal them properly using a needle and thread. Place the stuffed pigeons in a pot, submerge them in water, and put them on heat.
- Add bay leaves, cinnamon, onion, cloves, and salt to the pigeons after removing any foam that appears on the surface. Let them simmer for about half an hour on low heat until they are cooked.
- Heat clarified butter (ghee) in a suitable pan and fry the pigeons until they turn golden. Place the remaining quantity of durum in a serving dish and lay the fried pigeons on top. Serve immediately.
7. Egyptian Pickled Tomatoes
Try the Egyptian pickled tomatoes – one of the easiest and most delicious Egyptian side dishes that pairs perfectly with kebab and kofta. A popular choice on the streets of Cairo, these tomatoes are both flavorful and refreshing. Don’t miss out on this classic addition to your meal!
- Large tomatoes
For the seasoning mix
- Bell pepper
- 1 small onion
- Minced garlic
- Lemon juice
- Minced mint
- Combine the seasoning ingredients in a food processor until finely minced. With a knife, make slits in the tomatoes.
- Stuff the tomatoes with the seasoning mix. Store them in a container in the refrigerator. Serve alongside meals.
8. Fried Cauliflower
Dive into the heartwarming tradition of crispy fried cauliflower, a budget-friendly delicacy cherished for generations. Its golden crunch offers an inviting embrace on cold winter days. Experience the timeless comfort of this classic dish and warm your soul.
- 1 medium-sized cauliflower head.
- Salt, cumin, and black pepper.
- 1 cup flour.
- 4 eggs.
- Chopped coriander and dill.
- Minced garlic.
- 1 cup milk.
- 1 small spoon of baking powder.
- Oil for frying.
- Initially, divide the cauliflower into medium-sized florets.
- In a deep pot, add boiling water, salt, and cumin.
- Immerse the cauliflower florets in boiling water for 5 minutes until they are cooked.
- Remove the florets from the water, let them cool, and then start preparing the batter.
- Combine the flour and a teaspoon of salt, pepper, and cumin spoon.
- Add the chopped vegetables, crushed garlic, a teaspoon of baking powder, milk, and eggs.
- Optionally, you can add a spoonful of crushed breadcrumbs or starch to get a crunchy texture.
- Mix the batter well until its consistency becomes cohesive or creamy.
- In a deep pot, add enough oil so it’s thick and covers the cauliflower pieces, and heat it over high heat.
- Dip the cauliflower florets into the batter, ensuring they are well-coated.
Frying the Cauliflower
- Place the florets in the hot oil. Don’t turn them until they’ve turned golden in colour.
- Lift the golden florets from the oil and put them on kitchen paper to remove the excess oil.
- For serving, arrange the florets on a dish and garnish with the chopped vegetables.
- You can serve this dish with a green salad, tahini, pickles, and bread.
9. Pickled Eggplants
Savour the tangy delight of Egyptian pickled eggplant, a timeless delicacy that adds a burst of flavour to any meal. Steeped in rich tradition, this zesty side dish marries the deep flavours of the Mediterranean with the warmth of Egyptian culinary mastery. A must-try for those seeking a true taste of Egypt’s vibrant gastronomy!
- 1 kilogram of small-sized eggplants
- 4 tablespoons of salt
- A cup minus a quarter of vinegar
- A head of minced garlic
- Three stalks of minced green pepper
- Three stalks of minced red pepper
- Two tablespoons of fine cumin
- A cup of minced fresh cilantro
- A quarter cup of oil
- Boiled water
- Wash the eggplants thoroughly. Remove their green stem, and cut a small slice from the base of the stem.
- In a deep pot, fill it with water. Wait for the water to boil, then add a spoonful of salt and a spoonful of vinegar. Place the eggplants in and wait until they are well-cooked and change colour.
- Be cautious not to leave the eggplants in the water for too long to avoid getting damaged or mushy.
- For the stuffing, mix garlic, red and green peppers, cilantro, salt, cumin, and vinegar well. You can also add a quarter amount of lemon juice.
- After draining the eggplants from the water, use a thin-bladed knife to open each eggplant from the centre, making it ready for stuffing.
- Place the stuffing inside the eggplant heart uniformly and keep the remaining stuffing aside.
- After positioning the eggplants distinctively, pour lemon juice over them. Then, top them with the remaining stuffing and add a few drops of oil as per your preference.
- You can store it in the refrigerator and use it when needed.
Diving into the vibrant flavours of these dishes offers a taste journey like no other. Whether you’re looking for a culinary adventure or simply craving comfort food with a twist, these Egyptian side dishes are the answer. Don’t just take our word for it – prepare them at home or come taste the authenticity for yourself. Your taste buds will thank you!