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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Elamana: Cheap, Homemade Egyptian Cuisine in Zamalek
There is no shortage of restaurants serving Egyptian cuisine in Cairo, but not all of them prepare food like an Egyptian mama would. Despite a profusion of international restaurants on the island of Zamalek, there are limited options serving authentic Egyptian cuisine.
Elamana is a tiny dining venue located on Sayed Bakry Street, just round the corner from 26th of July Street. Serving up homemade Egyptian cuisine, the venue’s space barely fits its kitchen; so its four tables are arranged along the pavement outside.
Upon arriving at Elaman,a you can immediately take a peek into the clean open kitchen. The menu is promptly presented and lists all the classic Egyptian dishes like molokheya, pigeon, shish tawouk, kofta and chicken as well as a variety of rice and macaroni dishes. The food arrives within five minutes of placing your order. They give you water with the meal; but bear in mind that it is tap water. There are no other drinks available, but upon request they have no qualms in getting you any kind of soft drinks from the supermarket next door.
The molokheya is tasty with a great texture and comes very close to the homemade version. You can tell by its taste that it is made fresh and was not boiled for too long. The chicken is very well-prepared; it’s neither dry nor over-spiced, and the best part is its crispy skin. You can order the chicken by the whole, half or quarter. If you only take a quarter, you can specify which part you want, such as the thigh or breast. The chicken here is so delicious, that you’ll be left wondering why this restaurant isn’t famous all over Cairo.
You can have any macaroni dish served with either béchamel or tomato sauce. Although our portion of the macaroni dish was generous, it didn’t have enough sauce, which made the dish a little dry. Of course, all meals are served with bread and you can order a side dish of rice, baked potatoes or French fries. The downside is that the food at Elamana is served warm but not piping hot. Since you are seated outside, it tends to cool down quite quickly.
The menu is only available in Arabic, and although the waiter is happy to try and translate, his English is limited. At the time of this reviewer’s visit, certain dishes like dolma and sambousak were not available. The food is very cheap: our meal of molokheya, chicken and macaroni came to only 28LE.Elamana is a good stop for a quick and cheap Egyptian meal. If you prefer more comfortable seating, it is recommended that you ask for take away or delivery.
Koshary, foul, taameya are the foods most synonymous with Egypt, but rarely does anyone bring up feteer – a classic Egyptian dish that can be traced back for many generations. With several versions covering sweet and savoury, as well as the traditional Feteer Meshaltet, restaurants who focus on Feteer can target a very wide audience and get creative.
In Maadi, one such eatery by the name of Feteera can be found on Road 233. With one man behind the counter both taking orders and preparing them, the restaurant itself is tiny, meaning eating-in isn’t exactly the most comfortable of experience.
But feteer is a food best eaten at home where you can get messy without the judgemental eyes of fellow diners. The menu features both feteer and pizza, alongside the Rocket Menu – feteer wrapped into a sandwich.
We opted for a Minced Meat Rocket (15LE) and an Alexandrian Sausage Rocket (15LE), as well as an Alexandrian Hawawshi (15LE).
Serving time was quick and the Rocket Feteer consisted of three wraps per order in Styrofoam plates. Using feteer essentially as bread is an obvious but novel use of it, but the stuffing itself did little to help either sandwich. Firstly, because it was so scarce, and secondly, the meats – especially the minced beef – were overcooked to gaminess. In addition, the feteer itself was greasy and soggy.
The Hawawshi, which we originally thought was just a Rocket stuffing, turned out to be a full sized hawawshi with a peculiar non-bread but also non-feteer dough. Whatever this hawawshi was trying to be, it missed the mark entirely, thanks primarily, once again, to overcooked meet.
While Feteera’s creative use of feteer is commendable, the fetter itself didn’t impress, often being far too greasy. Another factor that undermined the food is the overcooked meet that, when combined with disappointing feteer, didn’t leave much to enjoy. There’s always a danger when meddling with a classic – especially when the fundamentals aren’t executed correctly. The biggest problem with Feteera, ultimately, is that behind the innovative variations, the feteer itself left much to be desired, so anything built on top of that is doomed to fall short.