Egyptian street food.
It has arrived in London town via Koshari Street. This is a new enterprise set up by two Egyptian entrepreneurs who have had a helping hand from the doyenne of Middle Eatern food, Anissa Helou. Egyptian food has come to town in this new venture, which has so much potential. Not least because to me, it represents refined good quality fast food from a region not many of us know about in terms of it’s cuisine.
Anissa has been involved with adding her own stylish and authentic touch to this dish that is a staple on the Egyptian street food scene. I was invited to check it out last week. Here is my take on what I found.
I will start off by telling you a ltitle about what Koshari is.
A dish of rice, lentils, vermicelli and tiny macaroni. Add a layer of well made tomato sauce with a spice level to suit your tastes. (MAD for me), perfectly cooked chickpeas, Anissa’s secret recipe Doqqa and finish off with a tangle of crisply crunchy fried onions.
Sauces are as follows. MILD-ALPEPPO PEPPER. HOT-CAYENNE. MAD-NAGU JOLOKIA.
Koshari is something that everyone eats in Egypt, rich or poor. It is a well loved dish enjoyed by all. I assume that everyone who eats it regularly has a favourite way. Or a street seller that they return to because of how they assemble the dish. Or even how they season or flavour their toppings.
For me, what I loved about the dish was that every layer had a distict taste and texture. The base lentil, rice and pasta sounds like a mammoth amount of carbs in a bowl. Then add in a layer of chickpeas too before you reach the tomato sauce. But it works. The spice in the sauce cut through the richness of the carbs. Then you have a sweetness from the onions and an aromatic note from the Doqqa. I think I detected a hint of coriander seed with it’s lemony fragrance. Doqqa is a mixture that can be personalised. Anissa has added this to the Koshari but I don’t think this is used in Egypt.
Another thing. The do garlic sauce. But well. For the first time I enjoyed a garlic sauce that doesn’t repeat on you. Remember to ask for it. Garlic, cumin, lemon & cayenne. Delicious.
I did read an article HERE which offered up for discussion the fact the we in the UK may be guilty of “fetishing Ethnic food”, that in fact Egypt is a bit of a culinary desert with not too many dishes to rave about but this isn’t a view that I agree with. To me this dish represents what all of us should be eating once, if not twice a week. Firstly, It has no meat in it. So by savouring this dish (which is such a nutritious meal and very good value too), we are reducing our meat consumption which will in turn benefit our health. If a nation even has only one or two dishes that stand out, that’s fine by me. Provided they are prepared as well as they are at Koshari Street.
And no, I am not vegetarian. But yes, I do worry about the effects of our increasing consumption of meat particularly with the growth in popularity in countries such as China. And another thing. This dish will fill you up big time. The perfect meal to stop you reaching for a cream bun at tea time. Slow release carbs could help you lose pounds by virtue of the fact you will not have space left in your gut! So, remember to visit Koshari street before you head off to the pub. Or head there after the pub on your way home. This dish could be the best hangover cure ever. Remember to go for the hot sauce too.
Some of the other things I tried when I was there are listed below. I managed to pack away so many things, thanks to the generosity of the owners.
Soup of the day- Swiss chard, lentil and lemon.
Hummus with mini pittas and crudités.
Sweet pastries filled with either pistachios, figs or walnuts.
Each of the above were prepared and cooked to very high standards. Delicate,well balanced flavours and use of good quality ingredients is what sets this place apart. I think there is more than enough space for Koshari Street on our London map of street foods. How can you go wrong delivering quality and good prices?
But I would like to see more being made of those little pastries and little pittas. Too good!
Thanks to Koshari Street for my lunch. All views expressed here are my own.