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Dokki, Cairo, Egypt.
Taza: Popular Egyptian Shawerma in Dokki
As the long stretch of road that straddles the borders of Mohandiseen and Dokki, Tahrir Street is home to a variety of Egyptian restaurants and food vendors. You can find everything from Koshary El Tahrir to small liver and sausage sandwich stands hidden in the side roads. Taza is a shawerma restaurant that has gathered a bit of a cult following among Cairo’s locals, visitors and expats alike. Outside the small shop, clusters of hungry people gather around the shawerma stand and the cashier. The inside of the shop is usually inhabited by diners, sitting and standing, tucking into their grub.
The menu is confusing, to say the least, because it’s difficult to decipher items such as the chicken roll or the pizza chicken sandwich. Unfortunately, the staff that we sought help from was none the wiser. One glance at the small space of the restaurant is enough to notice that Taza’s customers rarely venture from the shawerma or kofta sandwiches.
We can see why, though; because the shawerma is pretty addictive. The small and medium sizes are redundant and completely insufficient for satisfying a craving. For 11.50LE, you get a large, perfectly seasoned and cooked shawerma sandwich, whose tehina and salad are as essential as the meat itself. As with all shawerma places; the chicken version just doesn’t live up to its beef counterpart. We usually expect to complain about greasy meat in a shawerma sandwich, but the chicken was actually a little dry.
Taza also offers a range of more substantial grilled dishes including kofta, shish tawouk and grilled chicken (16LE). We tried the latter and found it to be unspectacular, but as good as a 16LE half-chicken could be. It was pretty heavily grilled and had that nice charcoal-grilled taste.
We also tried a portion of fries (2.50LE for the medium, 4LE for the large) and were presently surprised. Taza’s fries have a slightly chunky, floppy and unevenly cut quality about them.
Of course, no Egyptian sandwich joint would be complete without foul and falafel sandwiches, and Taza offers them as such for 1.25LE a pop. However, we’d recommend you pop over to Gad across the road, because based on our falafel sandwich, Taza spends more time on its meat sandwiches; the falafel was cold and dry.
It’s easy to see why Taza has become so popular and continues to be so busy. The delicious shawerma sandwich is the restaurant’s pillar, but you’ll need patience and thick skin to tolerate the queues and blasé staff.
If you work in an office environment, you’ll understand when we say that one of the most important decisions of any working day is what to eat for lunch. It’s made all the more important towards the end of the month, as we desperately await pay-day – but we’ve found a little gem in Agouza that satisfies when all you find in your wallet is tumbleweed.
Although it enjoys a largely unassuming presence – we first heard of it when we found the menu in the entryway to our offices – Tahabeesh ticks three boxes: it’s cheap, it delivers quickly and it’s filling.
As a takeaway/delivery only eatery, Tahabeesh is one of those places that has something for everyone; everything from Egyptian classics like liver sandwiches and hawawshi, to pastas are available and no item is priced higher than 16LE.
Keen to test out a little bit of everything, we tried an Alexandrian liver sandwich (10LE) and pasta with sausage (14LE) and the menu’s only sweet item, the ‘Chocolence’ (7LE) – more on that later.
A speedy 15 minutes later, the sandwich arrived steaming hot in simple Styrofoam packaging, while the pasta came in a typical takeaway foil plate – but let’s get to the important stuff. The fino bread used for the sandwich was soft and noticeably fresh, while the liver was generous in portion and cooked perfectly, though we were surprised to find the addition of pomegranate molasses – usually used in Lebanese food. We were pleasantly surprised though, as the sour-tinted sweetness of the molasses actually worked well with the traditional Alexandrian seasoning and the slight sweetness of the bell peppers.
Like the sandwich, the pasta was also generous in portion, though it was cooked a little less than al dente, meaning it had a slight stiffness to it. Giving you an option of white and tomato sauces, we went for the latter and it was fine – but just fine. Luckily, the sausage pieces added a zing to what was otherwise a pedestrian dish.
Then there was the Chocolanse– what we assumed would be a chocolaty take on the Sakalans, which brings together cream, jam and halva. All it turned out to be, however, was a small fino bread with chocolate spread – and that’s all. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t enjoy it, but we expected something, anything else in the mix.
It was a topsy-turvy meal, but for the occasional touch of brilliance – the pomegranate molasses, for example – there was just as much disappointment, verging on indifference. But then what do you expect for these kind of prices? Try Tahabeesh. It hits the spot without being spectacular.