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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Soufflé: Zamalek Sweet Spot
A good neighbour is always available to lend you a cup of sugar. On the island of Zamalek, sweet shop Soufflé knows what being a good neighbour is all about.
While some sweet shops specialise in oriental treats, ice cream or chocolate cake; Soufflé has it all. The large shop is packed with several coolers, a central counter and shelf-lined walls all loaded with sugary delights.
One section of baskets is brimming with bite-sized goodies of both the oriental and western persuasion. Tiny, crunchy tartlets filled with cashews, little chocolate-covered sandwich cookies and petite shortbreads with gooey apricot centres are just a few of the mini-treats in this section. Sold by weight, you can mix a bunch of your favourites for a tasty and colourful cookie platter at 70LE per kilo. For bite-sized savoury snacks, take a peek behind the gateau counter, where a slew of breadsticks and crackers in varying shapes with seeded toppings go for 26LE to 30LE per kilo.
The centre of the shop is devoted to a high counter, where traditional oriental sweets are on display. Soufflé’s selection includes traditional basbousa for 30LE per kilo– expect to pay more for the crunchy nut toppings– and konafa stuffed with pistachio for 140LE.
A refrigerated display of Soufflé’s cakes and tarts showcases the shop’s gourmet side. A number of beautifully designed cakes are available, including one covered with glistening peaches (120LE). Even better is the counter just next to this cooler, where chic single servings of a variety of cakes and tarts are sold.
One in particular features a double layered crunchy crust beneath a decadently rich layer of thick chocolate mousse which is topped with a combed design of dark and milk chocolate sauce. Another delightful option had a spongy white cake base topped with mounds of pastry cream and finished with pineapple, peach and kiwi. The sweetest part about these desserts is the price. At 9LE per piece, these gourmet treats are as nice on your wallet as they are on your tongue.Soufflé delivers to the Zamalek, Mohandiseen and Dokki neighbourhoods, and although they don’t cater; they do have a nice selection of dyed, fruit-shaped marzipan and lots of chocolates and candies in elegant wrappers that would make excellent favours for a party or a wedding.
And while there isn’t a single soufflé to be found in the store, their selection is so sweet that we barely notice the misdirection.
The food and beverage industry in Egypt is so big, and continues to get bigger, that some venues often go overlooked - hidden gems ready to be discovered. One such diamond in the rough is Kayan Kitchen & Bakery; a small kiosk selling gourmet sandwiches in front of Shooting Club in Dokki.
A smallish cart embellished by a green carpet, plants on the front; it can be hard at first to believe that such small venue is capable of making such variety of gourmet sandwiches from chicken, beef, turkey and cold cuts—you name it.
We kicked things off with a Kayan Burger (27LE), which came with an impressive amount of Italian flavours. The juicy burger patty was covered in lettuce, diced tomatoes, fresh melted mozzarella, pesto sauce, pickled red onion and Dijon butter, all nestled in a light and fluffy bun with a spot-on crispy exterior. Everything came together perfectly for a genuinely Italian taste.
Looking to try the chicken options, we were initially torn between BBQ Chicken (28LE), Kayan Breaded Chicken (30LE) – both highly recommended by the staff - and Chicken Curry (25LE). We opted for the latter, which came in the form of tender, curry-spiced grilled chicken, mixed with roasted peppers, pickled lemons and yogurt-coriander dressing. Though wrapped in pita rather than traditional Indian naan bread - wishful thinking on our part, maybe - the chicken curry was bursting with flavours with an overpowering pickled lemon flavour. Like the burger, it certainly lived up to its name.
We couldn’t leave Kayan without trying something from the cold cut sandwiches, that’s when we went with famous BLT – (beef) bacon, lettuce and tomato (28LE). Bringing together Dijon butter spread, pickled onion, beef bacon, lettuce and tomatoes and served in Italian white ciabatta bread, everyhting from the bread to the vegetables tasted noticeably fresh, while the Dijon butter spread added an exquisite kick to the overall taste and was a perfect foil for beef bacon.
Dessert was next up on our visit, but, unfortunately, they didn't quite hit the bar set by the sandwiches. Opting for Chocolate Donut (7LE) and Cinnamon Roll (7LE), the donut was a little too dense, while the cinnamon roll needed more cinnamon.
Despite the desserts, it's difficult not to be impressed by Kayan. Everything from the friendly staff, to watching food in the making, to then eating it was a delight and, if we're honest, a suprise - never judge a book by its cover, indeed.