More carbs than you can shake a spoon at
April 19, 2007 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Take this cooked with this and mix it with these and these and this, top it off these?!?, smother it in this and you have this: كشري. Pronounced kusharī, you can also find it spelled kushary, koushari, koushary, koshari, or koshary. However you spell it, it is one of Egypt's most popular dishes. Throughout Cairo you can find restaurants devoted this this humble, cheap (a filling bowl costs 3LE, around 50 cents), usually vegetarian dish. Of course, if you're not in Cairo you can always make your own.
posted by Deathalicious (47 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
Restaurants that serve kushari (and, usually, only kushari) are easy to identify by the giant metal tubs visible through the front window, filled with mounds of rice, pasta, and lentils. In general, you are served the dish "dry"--without any sauce--in a stainless steel bowl. You are then given a small bowl filled with tomato sauce, so you can decide how much or how little sauce you wish to add to your dish. You are also given a smaller bowl filled with a hot chili sauce, and there is also a pitcher of vinegary garlic sauce as well.

The author of the fourth link (the history of lentils) also has a page on the history of macaroni and lots more. He even has a page on Kushari.

There are plenty of recipes on the web for kushari; the one I chose was the only one I could easily find that had both vermicella and macaroni, which is how I've found it made at most restaurants in Cairo.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:04 AM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

There was a Mediterranean place near where I used to live that sold this stuff, and I used to nearly live on it. Good times, good times.
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:06 AM on April 19, 2007

top it off with these

And I swear, I previewed, like, 8 times.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:11 AM on April 19, 2007

I though it was tasty. But then again, I don't normally let myself eat carbs & it's carbalicious! So duh. Of course I liked it.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:13 AM on April 19, 2007

Damned if that doesn't look like something I could eat all frickin' day.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:15 AM on April 19, 2007

BTW, in Cairo they use pasta for kusharii but in Alexandria they only use rice. And if you want to check out other Egyptian recipes, this is a pretty good resource.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:18 AM on April 19, 2007

I so want to make this at home, but only three of my stove burners work and it looks like I need four. I wonder what's cheaper, a kitchen remodel or plane tickets? What's the fifth link by the way? I can't get to it from work, something to do with "criminal skills." Are you promoting outlaw kushary, Deathalicious?
posted by found dog one eye at 8:21 AM on April 19, 2007

Judging solely by my friends in Cairo, another one of the most popular meals seems to be this. Which weirds me out. People around the world seem to agree that the skin is the tastiest part though.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:25 AM on April 19, 2007

One interesting thing to note about public Egyptian cuisine (that is, food available at stalls and restaurants) is that it falls into two solid groups: dirt-cheap vegetarian food--fuul, kushari, and taamiya; and relatively more expensive meat-centric food--schwarma/kebab, kofte, and roasted/grilled/fried meat in general. Even though a plethora of excellent looking vegetables are available at the local markets, the only vegetables you will ever see served/used at restaurants are potatoes, tomatoes, onions, less frequently cucumbers, occasionally eggplant (aubergine), and even more rarely zucchini (courgettes). These vegetables are in fact a part of cuisine, but only private cuisine--that is, food served at the home. I have not yet been fortunate to experience a lot of home Egyptian cooking.

I stumbled across post #3 (the history of chickpeas) when doing a google search. It's part of the very awesome, recipe-loaded Legume Cookbook by the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA).
posted by Deathalicious at 8:25 AM on April 19, 2007

Love the koushari! Every time I go to Egypt, I have to get some. Don't forget the hot garlic sauce!
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:26 AM on April 19, 2007

BTW, in Cairo they use pasta for kusharii but in Alexandria they only use rice.

Well, it depends. The kushari joint I frequented in Alexandria definitely mixed pasta into the mixture, but it may have been that I happened to be going to a restaurant that was the exception rather than the rule. In any case, kushari seems wildly popular in Cairo but not quite so big in Alexandria. I see it on nearly every street in Cairo but only saw a handful of places in Alex.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:29 AM on April 19, 2007

Deathalicious, thanks for the reminder - it's been years since I last had Koshari. I'll be making some this weekend (or, at least, having a go).
posted by tnai at 8:51 AM on April 19, 2007

As a side note, Deathalicious is a great koshary partner.
posted by k8t at 8:55 AM on April 19, 2007

I like this. Thanks!
posted by humblepigeon at 9:09 AM on April 19, 2007

miss l., I had a Taiwanese roommate who told me that KFC in his hometown (Tainan? Don't remember; it's been a couple decades) was one of the busiest restaurants in the entire city.

Koushari is good with a side of tabbouleh for a quick, meatless light supper. It'd be fine with fried chicken too, come to think of it.
posted by pax digita at 9:26 AM on April 19, 2007

This koshary business doesn't sound kosher.
posted by allkindsoftime at 9:42 AM on April 19, 2007

I wonder if it's related to Hindi khichri, often anglicized as kedgeree? OED:

An Indian dish of rice boiled with split pulse, onions, eggs, butter, and condiments; also, in European cookery, a dish made of cold fish, boiled rice, eggs, and condiments, served hot. Also transf. and fig.
1662 J. DAVIES tr. Mandelslo's Trav. 81 Their ordinary Diet being onely Kitsery, which they make of Beans pounded, and Rice, which they boile together... Then they put thereto a little Butter melted. 1698 FRYER Acc. E. India & P. 81 Their delightfullest Food being only Cutchery, a sort of Pulse and Rice mixed together. Ibid. 320 Here is a great Plenty of what they call Ketchery. 1727 A. HAMILTON New Acc. E. Ind. I. xiv. 161 Some Doll and Rice, being mingled together and boyled, make Kitcheree. 1816 ‘QUIZ’ Grand Master 51 The servant enters with a dish, Containing kedgeree and fish. [...] 18.. MRS. BEETON Househ. Managemt. 140 Kegeree.
In any case, it's damn good eatin'!
posted by languagehat at 9:52 AM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

Can I get a recipe or near-recipe for the vinegary garlic sauce? Any guesses? I want the full shot (I think I might use sriracha for the chili, if you think that will work).
posted by oflinkey at 10:01 AM on April 19, 2007

You had me at fried onions.

Seriously, thanks for this. I'm going to try making kibbeh this Saturday and this sounds like a perfect thing to eat on Sunday. Not sure what sort of drink to serve with either though.
posted by Zinger at 10:13 AM on April 19, 2007

My mouth is watering just reading the recipe. I know what I'm cooking this weekend.
posted by lekvar at 10:31 AM on April 19, 2007

Can I get a recipe or near-recipe for the vinegary garlic sauce?

From Yahoo answers:
Mix 3 minced garlic cloves with 1/8 cup white viniger, 1 big lemon juice, 1 tsp cumin powder and 1 tsp coriander powder.
I think I might use sriracha for the chili, if you think that will work

Flavor-wise it should probably work, but it's a little bit sweeter (and possibly hotter) than the kushari hot sauce, I think.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:38 AM on April 19, 2007

This has made me homesick and insanely hungry all at the same time.

In my mom's recipe she uses rice and pasta and cooks the garlic into the tomato sauce.
posted by wilde at 10:38 AM on April 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

You know what I'm addicted to and I want to get a good recipe for? That really creamy lebanese garlic dip. I LOVE IT. And that fact alone may explain why I'm not dating right now.

For drinks, what about roselle? Another favorite of mine (even though I know it's 99% sugar) is instant Turkish apple tea served hot. Mmmmm. Apple-y!
posted by miss lynnster at 10:42 AM on April 19, 2007

By the way, the Yahoo answer link above also has a pretty good recipe for kushari including recipes for all of the sauces and the fried onions.
posted by Deathalicious at 10:42 AM on April 19, 2007 [2 favorites]

You know what I'm addicted to and I want to get a good recipe for? That really creamy lebanese garlic dip.

Do you mean Toum?
posted by Deathalicious at 10:57 AM on April 19, 2007 [3 favorites]

For drinks...

I've never seen tea served at a kushari joint, but I'm not always observant of these things (I'm a food guy, not a drinks guy). You can almost always get a soda. With kushari, I find that Sprite or Coke does a great job of cutting into the saltiness of the kushari.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:00 AM on April 19, 2007

It'd be fine with fried chicken too, come to think of it.

In Alex, it's not at all uncommon to have it topped with pieces of fried liver. Especially since Alexandria is known for its liver.
posted by Deathalicious at 11:05 AM on April 19, 2007

What's the fifth link by the way? I can't get to it from work, something to do with "criminal skills."

It points to everything2 [wiki], which I think pre-dated wikipedia and was sort of like, well, imagine being able to create a wikipedia entry, but no one else but you could edit it, and it was more like a journal, and sometimes the entries are for things that didn't even exist or were really weird entries. But like wikipedia, it has an entry on everything and is almost always informative (although only occasionally factual).
posted by Deathalicious at 11:13 AM on April 19, 2007

(thinks about dropping by miss lynnster's place sometime with a bunch of garlic cloves and a friendly leer)
posted by pax digita at 11:46 AM on April 19, 2007

Well no, Turkish apple tea isn't served in Egypt (I just like it). But mint tea is. And hibiscus juice (roselle) is. And as far as soda, the only one I had that wasn't Coke was Shani when I was in Siwa. (I think it's easier to get the closer you are to Libya or Kuwait.)

posted by miss lynnster at 11:52 AM on April 19, 2007

I'm not crazy about liver (except in things like braunschweiger, which is yummy on crackers with some minced yellow onion and capers), but I had some grilled liver cubes at a local Turkish place's lunch buffet, and it made me realize that it's possible somehow to minimize the bitterness -- it was really delicious.

I'm going to have to look around a couple of thrift shops this weekend to see if I can find a cheapo mortar and pestle so that the toum-creation ops can commence. That's so freakin' simple, it's barely a recipe! My salsa verde is complicated compared to that, and the effort's mostly in opening containers.
posted by pax digita at 12:02 PM on April 19, 2007

If you make toum... just be prepared to smell. I actually go to the local Lebanese restaurants and buy it. They only use it as a garnish here so they always look at me like I'm nuts. It's just not as good as the stuff I had in Egypt though. I need to learn how to make my own. And once I do... to remain single forever. ;)
posted by miss lynnster at 12:06 PM on April 19, 2007

miss l., marry me and our kitchen (and our babies?) will be wonderfully redolent! I will make our toum, cheerfully and uncomplainingly, and you shall be chief taste-tester.

There are worse smells than garlic, and in a pinch, white gas (what you'd refill a Zippo with) or even 'Lectric Shave tends to overpower just about any food smell on your skin. Vanilla -- the real stuff -- does the same trick much more gently and appealingly, but it's a good bit more expensive.

'Sides, using a mortar and pestle is just plain fun!
posted by pax digita at 12:27 PM on April 19, 2007

I ate kushari one time too many, and now I can't stand it. But I love Torshi!
posted by atchafalaya at 12:28 PM on April 19, 2007

Oh, nostalgia! I love this.

Those koshari restaurants are great, with all the stainless steel surfaces and bright lights. They're like Cairo's answer to Tokyo's pachinko parlors.

I like a lot of lemon on mine. I also like the big steel pitchers of icewater on each counter.

But what I really miss is eating the lamb and okra stew called bamya for dinner, and salty cheese and pita for breakfast. And the ubiquity of tiny, sweet, perfectly ripe bananas. Egypt is truly a land of wonders.
posted by breezeway at 1:14 PM on April 19, 2007

Man does that stuff sound good. I am just salivating now. It seems like a great end of the week dish to use up left overs of rice, pasta, etc. But man to make it all at once seems like a big production unless you are making it for 20. Alas, I too try to avoid the carb ridden delishessness, so I probably won't be having it soon.

BTW, to get rid of garlic and onion scent from your skin rub stainless steal on your skin. You can find a hand size stone of the stuff sold just for that at most good cooking supply stores. I usually just rub my fingers on my sink faucett. I don't know what the chemical process is, but something about the interaction of the metal and the essential oils neutralizes the stink.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 1:14 PM on April 19, 2007

Awesomeness. Coicidently I had couscous for lunch, but you can be damned sure I'll be checking this stuff out too. Thanks!

*licks screen*
posted by rmm at 1:29 PM on April 19, 2007

I have a stainless steel thingy in my kitchen that I use. It's great. As far as Toum, if you eat too much of it garlic will be coming out of your pores. I promise you.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:33 PM on April 19, 2007

I ate this stuff every damned day I was in Cairo, and I wish I could keep eating it every day. I also remember going to East Jerusalem (back when that wasn't a completely crazy thing to do) where I learned that Palestinians often saw koshari in Egyptian movies, but never ate the stuff and so didn't actually know what it was. It was weird being an American explaining to a bunch of Palestinians what Egyptians eat for lunch.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:11 PM on April 19, 2007

Legume + starch + flavoring (onion, tomato, vinegar, garlic, spice, bacon, etc..) = endless possibilities for a nutritionally complete, cheap, easy, tasty meal. Just about every culture has its variation.
posted by stbalbach at 6:33 PM on April 19, 2007

mmm...I love this stuff! Only one a day, though. Breakfast in Cairo used to be typically some of those little pitta sandwiches, with spiced creamy cheese or falafel & torshi (or better yet, all three!), koshary lunch & dinner often a random dish from a small restaurant I found in the markets near the American University - different meat dishes every day, along with the infamous molochiyya soup.

I was once observing Ramadan in Cairo, which was totally awesome! Every evening, during the last half-hour before the sunset call-to-prayer, the tone of the city was like ants preparing for the rainy season: cars drove more erratically & in an even greater frenzy than usual, and people scurried all over the place in a hurry to get to wherever they were going to eat.

Restaurants would set up long outdoor tables, pile them high with kofte & falafels & fuul & salads & bread & olives & other dishes, and the people would take their places, salivating over the food after not having eaten all day, awaiting the muezzin's call before tucking in with great gusto & all-round conviviality.

Islamic Cairo was my favourite place for breaking the fast, typically around the tentmakers' street, overlooked by - meh - 8-century old minarets, with the call ringing out: Allaaaaaah-huuuu-AkhBAR!
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:20 PM on April 19, 2007

posted by UbuRoivas at 7:21 PM on April 19, 2007

Here, does this help set the mood?
posted by miss lynnster at 12:00 AM on April 20, 2007

There's a place near me that makes a lovely version, but I'm currently boycotting them because of their treatment of bellydancers ... I should probably learn to make my own.
posted by kyrademon at 12:02 AM on April 20, 2007

posted by nickyskye at 11:15 AM on April 20, 2007

lynnsterji: beautiful, mash'allah!

now i've just gotta work out how to make the computer play that mp3 at all the designated times. how i miss hearing the call-to-prayer throughout the day! i think the last time was in jodhpur, staying just beneath the vertiginous mehrangarh fort.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:45 PM on April 22, 2007

I made a big platter full of kushari tonight. Loved it. Thanks for the tip.
posted by ursus_comiter at 7:06 PM on April 22, 2007

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