I’ve finally had my first taste of Egyptian Cuisine, thanks to the guidance of some amazing Egyptian friends.
You don’t really hear much about Egyptian cuisine, even here in Doha where there’s a large Egyptian expat population. Usually it’s Turkish this, Lebanese that, and Indian over there. I guess I just made the mistake of assuming that it was the same thing. My friends set out to prove me wrong.
Since one of my friends lives in The Pearl, we went to Egyptian Dining or Si El Sayed. It’s located near Shakespeare & Co in Porto Arabia. The weather was nice and cool so we chose to sit outside, the giant heaters making sure we were comfortable and didn’t freeze to death.
We were presented with two menus, a main menu and a smaller one containing snacks/cafe meals. Take note, the main menu comes in two forms: English and Arabic, so make sure to ask for the one you’ll understand.
The smaller menu has cute drawings and the main menu has old pictures of Egypt. Both were fun to look through, though I couldn’t understand the Arabic in the smaller menu.
I only flipped through both though. Decided to let the girls order for me instead since they know best! The staff were very helpful. One particular waiter stayed with us the whole time, offering suggestions on what best to order, what were their specialties, and what would be good for a first timer like me to try.
I ordered a hibiscus with lemon juice. Usually you only see it around town during Ramadan as people call it a ‘ramadan drink’, but it’s really good and it should be served everywhere all the time in my opinion.
After serving our drinks, we got the hot bread with a side of spicy cheese, and our order of lentil soup to share.
The soup was good, but you can get good lentil soup anywhere so it’s really nothing special for the restaurant. A bit overpriced even.
The spicy cheese was true to its name, way too spicy to eat!! But the bread was fresh, and warm, and I just wanted to put my face in it. A great thing about the bread was it didn’t turn hard over time like what happens to some kinds of bread, so I enjoyed eating it slowly. Still wish I could have handled the cheese though..
One of our appetizers was also served, though to be honest I thought it was just something to accompany the bread. The portion was way too tiny! My friends were also surprised and asked the waiter about it. He just shrugged in a helpless gesture. Eh, what can you do.
It’s called white keshk with onion, a dish that’s a mix of yoghurt with flour and chicken broth served with with fried onions on top. I think some milk was in there as well, not sure to be honest. I tasted a little and decided it just wasn’t for me. Apparently it didn’t taste like how it was supposed to taste like, so maybe it’s a mistake on the restaurant’s side? The yoghurt and oniony flavour just wasn’t appealing.
The girls ordered two truly authentic Egyptian dishes for our main courses. Apparently it’s deadly to have both served together, and people usually never do so unless at a big party where everyone can just have a little of each to share. They warned me that I was in for a sleepy night, since eating both together would just make me feel full and heavy and lethargic. I said let’s go for it!!
First was Moloukhia, a green, sticky sort of soup made from mallow leaves, coriander and garlic. You can eat the soup with bread and/or rice, and some people like to drink it straight from the bowl. It’s usually served with rice and one kind of meat. I decided to be adventurous and said yes to having rabbit for the first time!
The rabbit came to our table looking like chicken! I guess I’m just not used to looking at cooked rabbit, but I really couldn’t tell the difference. I took a small forkful, put it in my mouth, and chewed. And waited. And waited. And waited. No unusual taste, no burst of flavour in my mouth, nothing. It tasted like dry chicken… I didn’t feel that adventurous anymore! A bit of a let down, really.
Tried the soup next, and when I put my spoon in the bowl to try it, I noticed the consistency. I’ve always been picky about food, and how it looks, if it’s touching other food on the plate, and how it smells all play a big role in whether I’ll eat something or not. The consistency of the soup was sticky and thick, reminding me of the juice of a soursop (guyabano). I tried a little bit but couldn’t handle it. Gave the soup a pass.
Feedback from N and R: The molukhiya was definitely not up to their standards. They even questioned the waiter about it again.
Next came Koshary, a dish my friend called ‘inhumane’. It’s a deadly combination of rice, lentils, not one but TWO kinds of pasta, and chickpeas, cooked in a tomato and vinegar based sauce with lots of garlic. If you hate carbs, this is your worst nightmare.
I loved it! We asked for extra sauce, and you should definitely do the same. I was quick to copy what the others were doing.
Put a portion on your plate, add some of the extra sauce, then add a bit of the hot sauce and the vinegar. Mix, taste, adjust to your liking. It was filling and delicious, and you wouldn’t think that all of those ingredients mixed together would go so well with one another.
One order of the koshary was more than enough for us three, but since we also had other dishes, in reality it’s probably just enough for two.
Feedback from N and R: Koshary was okay, but they’ve had better. If this was just ‘okay’, I’d love to try great koshary!!
To end the meal we ordered feter, as if we needed more carbs! Feter is made with layers of pastry on top of one another, and baked to form a crispy, hot pie. We hard ours served with tahini, black honey, and spicy cheese. Skipped the spicy cheese and went straight for the black honey and tahini. Usually the two are mixed together to form one dip for the feter, but I didn’t like the taste of that. So I stuck with the delicious and sweet black honey! The sweetness is a bit intense, so don’t put too much at once like what you (.. okay, me) would usually do.
I wondered why it was called black honey. Did it come from black bees? I was half joking half serious… Apparently it’s not honey at all, but some form of molasses!
The evening was great fun, and it was a lovely introduction to Egyptian cuisine. My friends were a bit disappointed, but that just means that we need to go out again and try some more food to compare, and I am not complaining about that.
They were right about all the food being a deadly combination. At the end of the evening I felt so sleepy and totally ready to roll home.
Si El Sayed is located at 12 La Croisette Porto Arabia, The Pearl, right next to Shakespeare and Co.
This is not a sponsored post.