Many countries have a poutine equivalent, a simple filling fast food dish with a bizarre combination of ingredients that tastes better than it looks. In Egypt they call it Koshary.
Koshary begins with a layer of rice, macaroni, and chopped spaghetti noodles. This is topped by crunchy brown lentils and chickpeas. Then comes a vinegary tomato sauce. And, last but not least, a light sprinkling of crispy caramelized fried onions.
Yeah, it looks like “cochonnerie,” a mix of leftovers and what-have-you, and sometimes it even tastes like it came out of a pig’s trough. But it can taste really damn good if done right. A nice mix of squishy noodles, crunchy lentils, crispy sweet onions, and spicy saucy sauce.
The koshary pictured in this photo comes from Cairo’s Abou Tarek Restaurant, widely reputed to be the best in the city. It’s delicious, and great value at less than a buck fifty. Abou’s portrait stares at you from the chintzy marble, crystal and stainless steel interior. Open from 7 AM to midnight, you can get your koshary fill at most hours of the day. And if you want a bowl after a night of drinking, well, good luck finding a decent place to drink in Cairo.
Those on the run can get their koshary fix for even less from one of the many streetside koshary carts.
If you’re looking for Koshary in Montreal, Cafe Restaurant Jounieh does a pretty good version for $7.00. In fact, it’s a really good Egyptian restaurant overall with friendly service and an authentic atmosphere, only a short 15 minute walk east of metro Cote Vertu. Try it! – it’s healthier than that poutine you were craving. (JOUNIEH IS NOW CLOSED, but there’s a quaint-yet-sub-par Koshary place near Concordia called La Folie du Koshary)