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Giza, Cairo, Egypt.
Wang Fu: Possibly the Only Chinese Restaurant on El Haram Street
Located in the base of a huge building complex, a narrow strip of windows facing El Haram Street is dark and suggests that the place is closed. Walking through the doors, you’ll be greeted with a surprisingly large space filled with tables that seat up to eight people. The interior is brilliantly kitsch, and looks more like a film set that would lend bravado to scenes showing Triad gang members. Blood-red painted wall panels are decorated with gold plastic stick-on dragon emblems, and the odd culturally clichéd prop brightens up the otherwise dark and sombre restaurant.
For starters we ordered the fried dumplings (28LE). Although the six pieces were nothing more than dumpling-shaped sambousak, the meat inside was tender and pink. We did find them to be slightly greasy, though.
The tom yum soup (18LE) was pleasant enough, but didn’t have that kick that comes with the lime juice, lemon grass and chilli peppers like a tom yum soup should. On the other hand, the hot and sour soup (12LE) was close to perfect. Although it wasn’t the best we’ve had in Cairo, it wasn’t far off, and it delivered all the hotness and sourness that it promised, with fresh-tasting ingredients.
Of the many mains options – divided into beef, chicken, mutton, duck and seafood sections – we settled for the kindo beef (30LE), and the chicken with dried chilli and garlic (32LE). Though the beef was tender, and the serving was huge, the kindo sauce that the beef would have been marinated in was lacking somewhat. We should have got a sweet sauce that combined chilli, garlic and Worcester sauce; instead, it tasted like an Egyptian dish.
On the other hand, the chicken was just right, and while it tasted like something that you’d consider Chinese fast food, it was a good version. The combination of the chilli and garlic in the sweet sauce was spot-on, and like the beef, the serving was huge. We ordered garlic fried rice (14LE) and vegetable fried noodles (20LE) on the side. Like the beef, the rice also tasted like an Egyptian dish; specifically the rice you’d get on fatta. The noodles would have been fine but for the bucket loads of soy sauce that they were drenched in.
What Wang Fu has going for it is the fact that there aren’t many other Chinese restaurants in the Haram area. Unfortunately, our food was a case of hit-and-miss. We were the only diners there at the time of our visit, and maybe a lack of customers has translated into laxity in the kitchen.
Finding an Asian eatery on the eclectic Cairo restaurant scene is not a hard task; finding one that’s authentic is, however. Outside of high-end restaurants such as 8, for example, most serve up a more Westernised-version of the cuisine, though authenticity has become a hot trend as of late as more restaurateurs look to break from the pack and it was our first question as we headed to Wok and Walk, an Asian restaurant and takeout venue in Heliopolis’ El Marghany Street.
Similar to many cafés in El Marghany area – as well as Wok and Walk’s Maadi branch – the restaurant has a sidewalk seating arrangement, along with a small indoor area that features wooden benches and colourful chairs. It’s simplistic interior that stands out most for its exposed kitchen.
After browsing the menu, which involves a make-your-own meal section –with your choice of protein, rice or noodles and sauces – and a combo meal section that includes Chicken Tandoori (45.95LE) and Shrimps with Spicy Sauce (52.95LE), we opted for Beef Spring Rolls (16LE) and a make-your-own Sweet and Sour Chicken (48LE), alongside a Beef Black Pepper Combo (46.95LE).
Coming warm out of the kitchen, the four crispy spring rolls were stuffed with fresh and tasty vegetables, though little-to-no beef, which left us wishing we would’ve ordered the vegetable spring rolls instead.
Our chicken sweet & sour vegetable noodles, on the other hand, were extremely delicious, with well-seasoned chicken cubes, tasty and flavourful spiral noodles cooked al dente, and a thick sauce perfectly complimenting the overall taste.
The black pepper combo was just as good, boasting equally delicious vegetable noodles and tender-to-the-touch beef chunks, complimented by a mildly spicy black pepper sauce. The side of wonton chicken was fried to a perfect crisp and stuffed with a fulfilling cube of tender chicken.
After finishing our meal, we were ready for dessert and between limited choices like Fried Banana Roll with Nutella (20LE) – unavailable at the time of our visit – Fried Pineapple with Honey (17LE) and Fried Banana with Honey and Ice cream (17LE), we opted for the latter.
Served as six large pieces of batter-coated, deep-fried bananas, drizzled with honey and topped with a small scoop of chocolate ice cream – not vanilla as mentioned in the menu – the dessert was crunchy and delicious on the outside and creamy and rich on the inside – a perfect combo for any dessert.
While it was slightly off-putting to see leftovers on our table when we were seated – and uncomfortable to be surrounded by stray cats while eating— nothing could take away from the execution of the food. With tasty and noticeably fresh dishes, Wok and Walk could well become a go-to for residents of Heliopolis. But is it authentic? That's debatable.