While I’m in the process of reconsidering my role as an itinerant blogger (thusly expressed in a Christmas acrostic poem by my dad, Cliff), I think I’d like to talk to you all about one of my favorite things in the entire world.
Not clothing (though I have a lot to say about that!), EATING!! This one time (Bostonians will appreciate this, I think), I had only recently been to my beloved Allston staple Yo Ma and was waxing poetic to Joel and Luke about it. I think I was going on a rampage about Burmese tofu and chickpea flour and shallots and tamarind and FLAVOR and they both went off in hysterics about how I should be a food blogger. I don’t think I should be a food blogger, or any kind of blogger, because I don’t think I have the adequate descriptors (or discipline) to talk about food ALL the time, but let’s be honest. I THINK about food MOST of the time, and even though Egyptian cuisine is ubiquitous at best, bland at worst (and food poisoning at VERY worst, but I have an iron constitution, SO.), with the help of a few friends I’ve discovered some really amazing establishments that seriously boggle my mind and bring tears to my eyes (yes. delicious food is apt to make me cry. along with beautiful mosques and deaths of authors).
All these establishments are considered “holes in the wall”, I guess, but I feel like enough khowagat frequent them for them not to be totally Baladi. I also take some issue with claiming authenticity because it’s a really muddled and contentious thing to claim, so I’m not writing this to talk about how I’m oh-so-Anthony-Bourdain, but more to talk about some really delicious and insanely cheap food that I ate and loved.
POMODORO is this place on Tahrir Street (a little past Hurriya, and on the other side of Midan Falaky) where you hang around awkwardly until the waiter brings you plastic stools and rickety tables and you plop down on the sidewalk. Then you wait for about an hour (at this point you’re getting relatively hangry, because you were hungry an hour and a half ago). Then you are handed a MASSIVE platter of pasta COVERED in seafood (clams, squid, fish, et. al.) and a big ol’ crab on the side. It sounds super sketchy to get seafood (street seafood at that) in a city that is three hours from the ocean, but TRUST. This ish will BLOW YOUR MIND. It’s a) SPICY (such a rarety in the Cairo of Secrets!) b) FRESH (hence the hour it took to cook it. I bet they have a little pond in the back!) and most importantly c) MIND BOGGLINGLY DELICIOUS. Even my gourmet friends like Max agree. Then you’ll be really full and have to take a doggy bag home and only have paid approximately $3 for this meal that would have cost $30 in Amreeka. WIN.
Then there is this place off Talaat Harb, down a little alleyway with a lot of lady-friendly ahwas off Mohammed Bassiouny. Y’all turn the corner, and there’s this little kitchen set up (outside, natch.) and this young lady tells you what she’s serving today (standard Egyptian mom cuisine, so a lot of mashi and beans, et. al.) and you tell her what you want and her mom COOKS IT FOR YOU. RIGHT THERE. So you get this super sizzling fried chicken and kofta and fresh SALAD and amazing beans and potatoes, et. al. and again. Tears stream down your face because what you just placed in your mouth is so much more delicious and cheap than the overpriced excuse for Baba Ghanouj you ate at Estoril two nights ago. Again, you’ll pay less than $3. WIN.
And, I just went to a new place on Falaky (I forget the name, of course) that serves pigeon. Pigeon isn’t super meaty, but besides the pigeon (which is funny to say in Arabic because it sounds like BATHROOM. ha, ha.) your waiter (once he acknowledges you) inundates you with this chicken broth and amazing salad and tehine and PICKLES (good, half-sour pickles! not the gross, limp kind you get with your falafel). Then you get your pigeon, stuffed with delicious rice, head still on and all (yeah, not for the faint of heart, I guess) and you pig out and you are SO FULL. Oh, and with a Coke it’s like $7. WIN.
In addition to all that, I also am apparently a great judge of character because I’ve somehow got friends who are AWESOME cooks. Last week Max made calamari with chili peppers and wilted arugula and beet and carrot salad and drool drool drool. Last night my friend Sam made us Iraqi beans and livers with rice and eggplant salad and garlicky yogurt pasta and okay. I just realized that it’s kindof cruel to boast about all this delicious food so much. I guess just think of it as incentive to come visit me so I can take you to these places and we can have a snaccident together. Okay? Okay.