top of page
  • Writer's pictureThe Linguistic Foodie

Koshary كشري : an Egyptian Staple Worth Trying

I recently had the pleasure of visiting a place I have dreamt of visiting since I was little: Egypt. Wandering around the intricate wonders of ancient Egypt was spectacular, but perhaps the best part about the trip was this one dish we had numerous times throughout our visit: Koshary. Also spelled Koshari, this truly Egyptian dish is found in every corner of the bustling streets of Cairo as well as in every Egyptian home.

Koshary from one of the most famous Koshary joints in Cairo--Abou Tarek ابو طارق (served with tomato sauce and vinegar in the background).

Koshary is both filling and inexpensive, which is part of the reason it has gained so much popularity in Egypt and been named Egypt's national dish. However, I believe that it has become such a vital part of Egyptian culture because of its unique and mouthwatering flavor. It is a shame that this food isn't known very much in other parts of the world--it is almost as if Egypt wants to keep this national treasure as a secret hidden from the rest of the world.

Ok but you are probably thinking--what is Koshary? Well, the actual combinations of ingredients that are involved in making Koshary are a bit bizarre, but if you ever taste this street food, you will understand why it is so loved. Koshary is made by mixing a blend of rice, macaroni, vermicelli noodles, and lentils together. It is then topped with middle eastern spice blends, chickpeas, fried onions, cumin, and paprika. Koshary is served with a warm tomato sauce and vinegar that you can mix in generously for the best results.

In this picture, you can clearly see each of the individual ingredients-- noodles, chickpeas, pasta, onions, and rice

Koshary has a very interesting combination of flavors that come with an interesting history behind it. Koshary is said to be originated from the Indian dish of Kichdi खिचड़ी which is a one pot meal of warm rice and lentils, a dish my grandmothers make for me when I am sick. Kichdi was transported from India when Indian soldiers accompanied British soldiers to Egypt in the early 1900s. Both Kichdi and Koshary are comfort foods for their respective cultures but I can confirm that Kichdi isn't all that similar to Koshary. Koshary has so many more unique elements, some of which (the tomato and the pasta) are said to be influenced by the Italians living in Egypt.

Koshary is an integral part of Egyptian culture. It is made in Egyptian homes and locals always come in to their favorite Koshary shops, talking loudly in Arabic to the vendors about their lives (Egyptians are some of the most friendly and social people I have ever met). As a result, Koshary restaurants have a very noisy, bustling, and happening atmosphere--the Koshary restaurants are a place to build community in Egypt and escape the hardships of daily life.

The Sphynx with the Great Pyramid in the background

Visiting Egypt was also amazing because I was exposed to so much of Egyptian Arabic--in my biased opinion, the best dialect of Arabic. Arabic is such a beautiful language and a useful one too--as it is the 5th most spoken language in the world. However, Arabic is spoken so differently in various Arab countries which is why an Iraqi can barely understand a Moroccan. Because the Nile has remained self-contained, Egyptian Arabic has been able to evolve into a dialect unlike any other.

The Rosetta Stone

Although 93% of Egypt speaks Arabic, there are also many other languages that Egypt is home to. One such language is the Nubian language, the language of the Nubian people of southern Egypt and northern Sudan (these people are ethnically African rather than Arab). The Nubian language has survived since ancient times 300 years ago unlike the Egyptian language the Ancient Egyptians used to speak. Speaking of Ancient Egyptian, Egypt is home to the greatest finding in Linguistics of the past centuries. The uncovering of the Rosetta stone has allowed linguists to translate hieroglyphs using the help of Greek, which has given us information on the fascinating lives and traditions of Ancient Egyptians.

Koshary from another joint with vinegar on the side and traditional Egyptian sausages (Mombar ممبار) in the background

Koshary is a great way to connect yourself to Egyptian culture. If you ever visit this friendly nation, make sure to make a stop to a Koshary joint to try this classic Egyptian dish. I also challenge you to try making it yourself at home using recipes online or in cookbooks.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed learning about Egyptian culture and languages through the dish of Koshary. I hope one day, you too can get a taste of Koshary because this taste is unlike any I have ever tried!

مع السلامة

-The Linguistic Foodie :)

125 views0 comments


bottom of page