The finest Egyptian dishes and restaurants in Dubai
With the opening of two new Egyptian inspired eateries in Dubai Marina, Penelope Walsh discovers the basics of this nation’s cuisine.
Forget Alexandria or Cairo, the new hub of Egyptian eating can be found right here in Dubai Marina. In addition to the Egyptian stalwarts already serving up classic food in the area, such as Al Qaherah 1940, Dar Elkamar and King Koshari, the district has recently welcomed two new Egyptian inspired eateries, Helio Lounge and Geddy.
In May, Geddy opened a second branch (the original is in Al Barsha), serving classic Egyptian street food, in a fresh and quirky fast-food setting. Its signature dishes on the menu are feteer meshaltet and koshari, which, according to marketing director and partner Hassan Amr El Sinbawy, are very authentic. ‘These are the most famous and common dishes on the streets of Egypt, going back a long time. Geddy is offering a new concept of authentic Egyptian food, with 100 percent fresh ingredients and expert Egyptian chefs.’ Meanwhile, Helio Lounge opened its doors in March. Here, the menu offers Egyptian classics, with a slightly modernised edge: ‘Inspired by traditional Egyptian cuisine, we kept the taste, but have modernised the presentation, made it healthier and more colourful,’ says chef Joe Barza, the culinary director at Helio Lounge, responsible for developing the restaurant’s menu. Inspired by the growth of Egyptian eateries in Dubai, we scoured the menus at Geddy and Helio Lounge for a lesson in one of Arabia’s lesser known cooking styles.
The ‘Helio’ rolls Helio rolls, the signature dish, are inspired by feteer with a twist. Served in a roll, the dish comes in savoury flavours, such as basterma (pastrami and cheese), house made soujuk beef sausage and feta, beef and beans (Egyptian fava bean foul) and taameya (with falafel, aubergine, tomato, parsley and tahina). Sweet options include chocolate with halawa and pistachio and khoshaf (a classic Egyptian mix of dried apricots, dates, prunes, figs, raisins,honey and cottage cheese).
Besara To say this dish is traditional is an understatement. Some have claimed that it can be traced back to ancient Egypt and Pharaonic times. Like the popular dish foul medammes, this variant combines fava beans with dill, herbs and garlic to create a flavoursome dip.
Egyptian Babaghanoug The dish is served as an appetiser and as an accompaniment to Egyptian beans. It is made with grilled eggplant and potato, which is then mixed with bell peppers, parsley, tahini (sesame paste) and lemon juice. It is commonly served with caramelised onions.
Umm Ali Egypt’s most famous dessert is a creamy, custardy bread and butter pudding. It is made by soaking flat bread in sugar and milk, which is then baked with cinnamon and pistachio. The name of the dish literally means ‘Ali’s mother’, thought to have been the first wife of the sultan of Egypt, Sultan Ezz El Din Aybek. Stories vary as to its origins, but legend says Umm Ali celebrated the assasination of the sultan’s second wife by creating this dish and distributing it to the people. Despite this grizzly tale, the dessert is a must try.
Geddy Ora Marina Tower, behind RAK Bank, Dubai Marina (600 529997).
Roz bel laban Roz bel laban, which means rice with milk, is a popular Egyptian recipe for a rice pudding-style dessert. It is typically made with aromatics such as rose water or orange blossom water, as well cinnamon and in some cases raisins. At Geddy you can try this dessert plain, with nuts, or with chocolate.
Koshari Considered by many as something of a national dish in Egypt, koshari is thought to have originated in the 19th century, when the working classes began creating a mix of grains and pulses, left over at the end of the month. At Geddy, you can try a koshari special, containing an equally varied mix of meat, with beef, liver, chicken and sausage.
Tamr hendi Tamr hendi is a soft drink made with tamarind juice. Some suggest that the word tamarind is in fact a transliteration of the Arabic words tamr hendi (or hindi), literally meaning ‘Indian dates’. Other classic Arabian drinks on the menu include karkadeh made with rose, kharoub, containing carob and sugar-cane flavoured qassab.
Classic feteer According to Hassan from Geddy, feteer is ‘basically an Egyptian pie that is stuffed with a wide variety of ingredients that can be served sweet or savoury’. Classically, the pies are made by rolling the dough into one thin large sheet, which is then folded in over the toppings several times, giving the finished pie a crispy, flaky texture. The selection at Geddy includes vegetarian recipes, beef and shrimp varieties, as well as a ‘cheese world’ selection. Be sure to try a recipe with roomy, a classic Egyptian cheese, which is a hard, mildly aged cow’s milk cheese. Feteer fans can also try sweet recipes and even a feteer sandwich, which Geddy claims to be a first.
Three more Egyptian eateries to try Hadoota Masreya This large, sandy coloured cavern of a restaurant serves a wide selection of classic Egyptian dishes including molokheya and great falafel. There is also a large lounge area and the musically minded may also enjoy its karaoke nights on Tuesdays. Matloob Buildings, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 380 9000).
King Koshari This fun, quirky and colourful eatery is designed to look like a street-side café on the dreamed up King Koshari Alley, complete with lamp posts, curb stones and a zebra crossing towards the till. It specialises in koshari, the Egyptian dish from which it takes its name, and serves little else. Dubai Marina, behind Bay Side Residence, near Radisson Blu Apartments (800 55).
Soarikh Take a seat outside at Soarikh and soak up the authentic atmosphere of an Arabian street food stop. The menu is filled with Egyptian street food classics, including koshari and foul, but the draw is sweet and savoury varieties of feteer, which you can see being made at the counter inside. First Rigga Road, beside Port Saeed Mosque, Deira (04 250 01150).