Recipe: Moroccan Chickpea Stew

May 20, 2012

I always find it strange when Americans tell me they think Middle Eastern food is “exotic.” Perhaps this is because I’ve been eating it since I was 12 years old. Or, more likely, it’s because I lived in a Middle Eastern country for two years and nearly forgot what a decent cheeseburger tastes like (don’t even get me started on bagels and pizza).

But the main reason I don’t understand why Americans are so puzzled by Middle Eastern food is that it has such a similar flavor profile to our pseudo-European cuisine: We have BBQ, they have kebab. We have donuts, they have zalabiyah (fried dough balls soaked in syrup). We have macaroni and cheese, they have macarona fil forn (baked macaroni with béchamel). Granted, French fry sandwiches are pretty odd, and I doubt most Americans would be interested in the ubiquitous Middle Eastern breakfast of fava beans (ful) and pita. (Personally, I find this much preferable to syrupy French toast and greasy bacon.)

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Recipe: Chicken with “Molokheya”

February 21, 2012

In the Arab world, Egypt is known for its music and movies. In fact, Cairo was once called “Hollywood on the Nile.” The rest of the world associates Egypt with the Pyramids, and now, unfortunately, the Muslim Brotherhood. No one regards Egypt for its cuisine. Gastronomically speaking, Egypt is to the Middle East as Britain is to Europe.

This is not an entirely fair assessment, however. Egyptian food can actually be quite good, but it’s hard to find because Egypt doesn’t have a thriving restaurant culture. Most people eat at home, and while home-cooked food can be fantastic (my Egyptian friend’s mother is one of the best home cooks I know), restaurant food is not. That’s why I put together this incomprehensive guide to restaurants in Egypt, which is really just a list of my favorite things to eat there, in no particular order:

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