here and there

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Traditional Egyptian food

Yesterday as I drove down International Street in Forest Lawn, I was again curious in the Egyptian restaurant in that area.  I have seen the restaurant next to the Pyramid Halal store, but it always looked empty and dark, so uninviting.  I asked again in the Dollar store if anyone had eating there, this time the clerk assured me that the food was great, that it was open and worth a visit. 
This small restaurant with 4 – 5 provincial style cream colour tables and glassed covered tops has an open kitchen.  In front of the kitchen was a deli style counter, with stainless steel covered containers from which you could order your food, but the meat would be grilled in the kitchen.  Since they do not have a menu written down, the assistant chef ran through their menu which included beef, chicken and lamb.  In the separate containers, he had rice, fried onions, lentils and spaghetti broken into pieces.  These were all cooked and ready to assemble into what he called Kushnari.  There were also dishes of spicy tomato sauce and a dish that was in a batter, beef and eggplant and thinly sliced beef, he called beef doner.  He did have chicken doner, which means "turning:" Although there was a small amount of chicken on a vertical spit, it was not turning and looked cold. 
He had lamb chops that he could grill for me, along with falafals, shawarma and beef kofta.  I asked him to put together a traditional meal for two people.  

The Chef of the restaurant was sitting at one of the tables and since no one else was in the restaurant, I asked if I could join her. Although her response was yes, I had to initiate the conversation.  Although they had been open for over 2 years, they were not happy as to the number of patrons that they had.  They are planning a grand opening in warmer weather when they can set up a patio in the front.  The Chef was very proud of the new mural on the wall.  Although the eating area was bright and inviting, my thoughts were that they should focus on making the kitchen look less cluttered and brighter as being an open concept kitchen, it should sparkle!

Her husband who runs the store was interested in my opinion on fresh juices, such as strawberries, mango and showed me the juice display he was thinking of ordering.  Since this is a Muslim establishment, they are looking at other beverage alternatives than wine. 

The drive home was a delight as the car filled with cumin and fried onions and garlic smells, although the wisp of fatty lamb was not as delightful!  
I eagerly opened the two parcels of food. What the chef had package was Kushnari, which is a popular Egyptian dish, historically preferred by low income people, made of lentils, rice, pasta, onions, tomato paste and hot paste (red peppers).  Although the Chef mentioned that Egyptians love their food hot, although spicy tomato sauce added was not spicy.  I had  noticed that there was a bottle of Franks Hot sauce on the each table. 

The Kushnari was tasty but bland and did need the spicy tomato sauce added to it.  The other parcels contained 2 shoulder lamb chops which although moist had been baked earlier and were very gamey and greasy.  There were 2 large irregular shaped Beef Kofta which is ground beef seasoned with garlic, onion and parsley and rolled into sausage like pieces.  Although the appearance was not the most appetizing, it was tasty although dry.  Chicken pieces were in the mix but since the parcel had shifted in the car, I’m not sure just how this was presented. There was salad with this but the amount of mayo added was way too much.  Tasty orange color rice was also served which I though had grated carrots in it but must have been seasoned with cumin. 

Overall the meal was tasty and I would think the dryness of some of the dishes was due to the fact that it was 4pm when I picked up the food, although it did take a far amount of time to ready the food for me as I waited.