A staple in Indian home cooking
After asking people around the world for a dish they wish everyone knew about, I received a submission from Mayar in Alexandria, Egypt, discussing the national dish, Koshari. Koshari is essentially a dish of carbs, on carbs, on carbs! It is made with rice, vermicelli, lentils, chickpeas, two kinds of pasta, and two sauces. One is a tomato sauce, and the other is a cumin and garlic sauce. Mayar describes it as a party of flavor in your mouth!
Although the ingredients are fairly simple, the sauces really make the dish pop! One sauce is a spicy tomato sauce, and the other is a tangy garlic sauce with lots of cumin. Both sauces also have vinegar which gives the carbs some brightness. This makes the dish taste lighter than you would think in a dish full of carbs. With the perfect contrast of the soft and fluffy texture from the rice, lentils, and pasta and the crispy aromatic crispy, fried sweet onions, this dish gives you everything you can ever want in a dish.
The origin story of koshari is largely unknown. However, we know that this dish has been eaten for over 100 years, and it was first created sometime in the 1840s. This ancient Egyptian dish has been a significant part of Egyptian culture. Everyone in Egypt enjoys Koshari, but they also have different variations with a slightly different sauce recipe. When I visited my sister, who lived in Cairo, Egypt, I had another type of Koshari with a few different ingredients than the Alexandria version of koshari that Mayar eats. One difference is the Alexandrians tend to eat koshari with yellow lentils instead of brown.
Mayar’s reasoning for wanting to share koshari is that she loves that their national dish unites the country. She says even though people from different parts of Egypt all have different customs, traditions, and lifestyles, koshari is a popular street food eaten by everyone. It doesn’t matter if you are poor, rich, young, or old; koshari is a traditional meal that everyone enjoys.
When I recreated Mayar’s koshari recipe at home, it was a ton of work. I did all of the cooking on one burner, which definitely slowed the process down since there are so many pieces to koshari. I ended up using premade lentils and chickpeas to make the process faster, but it still tasted amazing since the main ingredients for this dish are the two sauces.
Overall, I am so glad I learned more about koshari and the universality of this dish. I love how it brings people together from across the country and allows them to celebrate their national heritage. If you have never had Egyptian food, try koshari and feel the unity from the shared joy of eating this dish.
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