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Worldwide Gastronomy Habits & Trends

Koshari – The Delicious Street Food From Egypt

ByFranziska Dietz

Dec 11, 2021

Hearing about street food culture, probably most people think of Asian countries like Thailand or Vietnam. But also the North African country Egypt offers quite some culinary street food jewels. One of them is koshari, a carbohydrate-loaded dish that combines all you need to fall into a peaceful food coma. In this article, you will find out all about the story of koshari and how to make this delicious food from Egypt yourself.

To Get Us On The Same Page: What is Koshari?

Koshari is one of Egypt’s national dishes and very easy to get from street vendors. Of course, as it is very popular, there are different ways to prepare and serve the savory dish, but in general, there are a few main ingredients:

A true Koshari from Egypt normally consists of rice, lentils and macaroni pasta and is topped off with two types of sauces, a spicy, tomato-based sauce and a vinegar-based sauce with garlic and lemon. On top of it, you will traditionally find crispy onions and chickpeas. It is unintentionally traditionally plant based, thus already quite popular among vegans all around the globe.

There are different ways to spell it, besides koshari, you could also spell it koshary or kushari. The name actually derives from the Hindi dish khichri, a one-pot rice and lentil food, which already gives us a hint about the origin of koshari.

Egypt, home, but not origin of koshari

Koshari – An International Group Project

Although Koshari nowadays obviously belongs to Egyptian cuisine, the Egypt have been – let’s say – ‘inspired’ by another nation when creating this dish. Actually, you could even say Koshari was some kind of group project of several nations:

Koshari was probably inspired by the already above named Indian dish of khichri. According to modern theories, British soldiers brought the Indian model for koshari in the 19th century. India formed an integral part of the British Empire, and the British, who just never seemed to have gotten enough, also occupied Egypt. In India, the soldiers had learned to love khichri, of course they would keep preparing it in the newest member of their kingdom, Egypt, as well. But also among the local population in Egypt, the new dish became pretty popular.

However, at the beginning the Egyptians probably prepared it with similar ingredients as the people from Indian. In the creation of koshari as we know it today, most probably another nation was involved. Which country might have added the twist about adding pasta and tomatoes? Of course, the Italians. Large numbers of Italians helped build up the Suez Canal in the 19th century as well, so most probably they also contributed to this global food project.

During the last fifty years, the popularity of koshari has grown immensely. Nowadays, it is a common dish in many families, restaurants and, as already mentioned, even easy to get on the streets. Of course, every koshari chef is proud of their very own recipe and convinced, there cannot be a better one. Resulting from this and the fierce rivalry among chefs, they guard their recipes, especially for the sauces, very carefully.

A typical way to serve koshari in Egypt

How To Make Koshari

After having talked so much about the story of koshari, let’s help that dish from Egypt gain more popularity and find out, how to make it ourselves!

For 8 servings of kushari you will need the following ingredients:

For the crispy onion topping:

  • 2 onions, cut into rings
  • 0.5 cup of vegetable oil
  • Salt

For the tomato sauce:

  • 1 onion, grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 3 cups of passata
  • Vegetable oil
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar

For the vinegar sauce:

  • 2 teaspoons crushed garlic
  • 2 tablespoons ground cumin
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 6 tablespoons vinegar
  • Salt

For the koshari:

  • 1 cup of brown lentils, well-rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup medium grain rice, previously soaked in cold water for 15 minutes, then drained
  • 2 cups macaroni pasta
  • 1 can of chickpeas
  • 0.5 teaspoon each of salt, pepper and ground coriander
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Water

How To Proceed

Start by making the crispy onions. Dry the onions unsing a paper towel to remove the excess humidity. In a frying pan, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and fry them for 12-15 minutes, stirring them often so that they will turn equally turn to a caramelized brown color. Take them out once they are crisp.

To make the tomato sause, heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a saucepan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat until they become a little golden and translucent. Next, add the garlic, coriander and red pepper flakes and sauté shortly, then add the passata and the salt. Bring it to boil, then let it simmer on medium heat for about 15 minutes. Add the vinegar, cover and keep warm until ready to serve.

For the vinegar sauce, sauté the garlic and cumin until they are fragrant, this takes about 30 seconds. Then add the vinegar and water and salt to taste.

Last, let’s get the koshari together. To do so, bring the lentils and 3 cups of cod water to boil in a sauce pan over high heat. Then reduce the heat and cook over low heat for 15 minutes, or until the lentils are slightly tender, not fully cooked. Then drain them and season with salt.

To cook the rice, mix the precooked lentils and the rice in a bowl, season the mixture with salt and pepper, then add coriander. Once, again, mix well. In a Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the rice and lentil mixture for about 3 minutes while stirring it. Then add about 3 cups of hot water to cover the rice and the lentils. Bring it to boil so that the water reduces a little. Cover and cook on low to medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed.

While cooking the rice and lentils, prepare the maccaronis according to the directions on the package. Before removing the pot with lentils and rice from the heat, check if the lentils and the rice are cooked, if not, add a little water and leave until done.

To serve a perfect plate of koshari, fluff the rice and lentils with a fork and transfer to a serving dish. Garnish them with macaroni, tomato sauce and vinegar sauce, add chickpeas and finally the crispy onions. Tada, your koshari dish is prepared!

If you are looking for a nice dessert to have after this delicious koshari, check out our blog post about pastel de nata.

This recipe was taken from 196flavors.