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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.
The more traditional restaurants in Cairo never fail to bring back memories of yester-year, drawing us in with their ‘eat on your feet’ charm. Largely famous for its popular shawerma and mango juice, we headed to Roxy's time-honoured restaurant, Abou Heidar, with plans to delve deeper into their surprisingly eclectic menu.
We headed upstairs to their small, stuffy seating area on the second floor; it was soon evident why this place is better for take-out. Aside
from shawerma, the menu boasts a selection of Alexandrian liver, sogo’, Dawood Basha kofta, burgers, sausages, fried chicken and roomy cheese – all of which are served in burger buns (6LE), Syrian bread (16LE) or large French bread (20LE-25LE). Also on offer was Lebanese kobeiba (6LE), salads and pickles (4LE), or pasta with beef béchamel and a side of turley (8.5LE) – a small tomato based tagine of egg plant, potatoes, courgettes and string beans, that one might compare to ratatouille.
An unfortunate and peculiar absence of chicken shawerma led us to order one large beef shawerma (16LE), a plate of Alexandrian liver (6LE), pasta béchamel (8.25LE) and pickles (4LE). After enquiring about the salad, we were told we’d have to wait quite a while whilst it was freshly chopped – and we waited with no avail.
With a long standing reputation for also offering delicious juices, one fresh orange (6.5LE) and a mango juice (7.5LE) took our fancy and both turned out to be even better than we’d anticipated. Both were evidently made with the ripest and sweetest of fruits.
Wrapped in fluffy, freshly baked bread, the shawerma meat-mix was both unique and delectable, combining garlic, tomato, vinegar with an unusual addition of fresh, flavourful mint. The meat was a little fattier than preferred, though the succulent Alexandrian liver dish made up for it. Although perfectly acceptable, there was certainly nothing exceptional about the pasta béchamel or its misfit side of turley.
Despite quick and attentive service, we wouldn’t recommend eating in – standing on the street with some of the best shawerma in Heliopolis is the best approach – you know what they say; when in Rome!