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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Batates & Zalabya: Oriental Sweets & Treats in Zamalek
Batates and Zalabya is a simple, to the point, no nonsense venture. Serving precisely what its name implies, the self-sufficient, red carts are located in several places around Cairo, including one of its newest locations in Mall of Arabia. The Zamalek branch is very easy to spot and perched on a platform where a small seating area surrounds it for those wishing to people-watch as they munch.
Offering French fries and corn dogs, it's their zalabya that truly offers something special. Also known as ‘lo’met el ady’ in Cairo – ‘zalabya’ is more associated with Alexandria – the small balls of fried dough, topped with either a honey syrup or powdered sugar, are absolutely divine. With a thick outer shell, the inside is soft and fluffy, without ever drowning in sweetness. We dare you to have just one.
A small container costs 9LE, while a large one will set you back 20LE. It’s nice to get half with the syrup and half topped with sugar for a bit of a variety – the sugar-topped ones are definitely the less sweet of the two. There are also other toppings available such as caramel, chocolate and strawberry sauces (2LE).
The French fries come in one size (7LE) and are crinkly cut, seasoned with herbs – though not overpowered – and you have the choice of topping them with ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise and hot sauce. The small toothpicks/forks make them an easy on-the-go snack.
The staff at Batates and Zalabya were friendly and accommodating at the time of our visit. While you wait for your order, it is an enjoyable experience to watch the men at work, specifically preparing the zalabya. Plopping perfectly round, uniform sized balls of dough into the hot oil; watching them turn from a pale beige to a wonderful golden brown, and finally, watching them doused in either the honey or the sugar – yum, yum, yum!
Whether it be for an occasion or just on a night when you’re craving something sweet and wonderful, Batates and Zalabya sticks to basics and serves up a delicious snack that will surely have you going back for more.
With Brew & Chew satisfying the cravings of Maadi residents, and Dip n Dip spreading their fantastic desserts in New Cairo, Nasr City and 6 of October City, the sweet-toothed of Zamalek can be forgiven for feeling a little neglected – that is until now. Chocolate by name, chocolaty by nature, Joe’s Chocolate Bar on Taha Hussein Street could be the answer to every chocaholic’s dreams.
As a venue, Joe’s Chocolate Bar is divided into two floors; the top floor has nothing remarkable about it but allows smoking, while the ground floor is where the ‘chocolate is. Besides the melted chocolate-like decoration on the wall (which is installed upside down, so instead looks like chocolate waves) the calm lighting and wood walls create a relaxing and cosy ambiance to the place.
The items on the menu are limited and nothing grabbed our attention, but we opted for the Molten Chocolate Cake (47LE), Triple Chocolate Crepe (41LE) and their new special item – as the waiter was so keen to mention – Oreo Waffle (49LE).
The molten chocolate cake had a bold chocolate flavour and a very moist texture; the gooey centre had a fantastic pudding-like consistency, which shows that it was cooked to perfection and, overall, the dessert had a spot-on sweetness. On the other hand, we would have preferred that the ice cream was served separately, because the hot temperature of cake melted it quickly and made the top of the cake rather soggy.
The triple chocolate crepe was just as good, meanwhile; coming as three thin, light and fluffy triangular servings, each one was filled with a generous amount of melted milk chocolate, and drizzled with white, milk, and dark chocolate. We also asked for fruit (10LE) on the side which consists of mini cubes of kiwi, bananas, and strawberries, and it was surprisingly fresh even though it’s not strawberry season yet.
As for the Oreo waffle, we expected nothing more than a waffle with crushed Oreo on top, but, impressively, the waffle itself had an actual layer of Oreo in the middle. Despite the waffles needing a little more milk chocolate on top and being a bit chewy, they were largely soft with a slightly crispy exterior, and the flavour of the Oreo popped in every single bite.
Joe’s Chocolate Bar definitely impressed with their well-executed desserts and big flavours, but we felt that the variety on the menu is too safe and a bit limited for a dessert specialist. We’d very happily come back for the molten chocolate cake, though.