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Abbasiya, Cairo, Egypt.
Al Azhar Chinese Restaurant: Authentic Chinese Cuisine, Uyghur Style
True foodies are forever exasperated at the fact that most Chinese restaurants in Cairo serve a westernised version of the cuisine. Some Chinese students at Al Azhar University came to the same conclusion and opened up their own restaurant close to their dorms, where one can experience traditional Chinese food for great value.
The students are of Uyghur decent, a populace that is predominantly Muslim and therefore the food is ‘halal’ and pork-free. Al Azhar Chinese restaurant is very small and typifies its, ‘hole in the wall’ nickname. Finding it is quite difficult but if you follow our instructions you should be fine. Take Saleh Salem Road in the direction of Al Azhar Park leaving Heliopolis. Don’t take the flyover but stay underneath it. Halfway underneath the bridge and close to the tunnel, take a right. This street leads up to the Taki Mattress building. At the building, take a left into the street right across from it. Then, within two minutes, you will find the restaurant on your right hand side. It is identifiable by the Chinese characters on the signage.
Apart from not having an official name, it also lacks a toilet so make sure to go beforehand. The staff hardly speak English; they only speak a bit of traditional Arabic , as well as Chinese of course. The menu is made up of a Pharaonic photo album featuring pictures of the dishes; we have no idea about the actual names.
We opted for a random mix of the options, most of which were priced between 10LE and 20LE each, and ended up with beef, fish, chicken and tofu. In addition we also ordered several soups (also 10-20LE each). The soups were the biggest we’ve ever encountered in our lives and easily make for a meal on their own. The extremely spicy noodle soup with beef was particularly filling. The noodles were succulent and obviously homemade. The noodle soup is not for the fainthearted; it was super spicy and had us tearing up a bit. We also tried the beef broth which was very good although a bit on the salty side, resulting in a thirst that could only be cured by their delicious green tea.
The absolute best dish we tasted was the beef with garlic in a spicy tomato sauce. The meat was succulent and the flavours were fresh and well balanced. The fish was also prepared well and was covered with cumin – a popular herb in the Uyghur cuisine. The winning dish, however, was the tofu. It came prepared in a tomato based sauce and seduced even the strongest carnivore in our group.
In the end, we paid 249LE for a group of seven people. This price includes a few soft-drinks and tea. Overall, the restaurant is definitely worth a visit as it is quite the experience.
We don’t really understand the correlation between summertime and junk food, but it seems like our cravings for all things sinful are heightened during the hotter months in Cairo. The concept of gourmet burgers continues to be trendy on the fad-loving Cairo dining scene and Butcher’s Burger’s increasing popularity has seen it open another branch in 6th of October City’s Westown Hub.
The medium-sized restaurant offer both indoor and outdoor seating and is hard to miss in the food-court thanks in-part to the yellow mini-bus prop in the outdoor area. Carrying its usual relaxed, kitschy, steakhouse vibe, our waiter dropped by with menus as soon as we were seated.
Offering the usual goldmine of burger variations, the menu stays true to the joint’s signatures. The Milano Burger (54LE), which features mozzarella cheese and pesto sauce as toppings, as well as the Hawaiian Burger (52LE), which features pineapple and Teriyaki sauce, definitely caught our watchful eyes.
Ultimately, though, we decided to go for classics, opting for The Mighty Butcher (77LE) and the Butcher’s Mushroom Burger (54LE). Our order, as promised, arrived within 20 minutes.
Both burgers came with a side of French fries, which were a bit too scarce for our liking, as well as a small serving of Coleslaw. The Mighty Butcher, which consisted of a 300g medium-well grilled beef patty as requested, topped with cheese, jalapenos, lettuce, beef bacon, garlic-mayo and caramelised onions, was everything you need it to be: filling, delicious and oh-so-satisfying. The Butcher’s Mushroom Burger was smaller than the former, yet still filling, with grilled mushrooms topping its well-done beef patty, alongside onion rings, as requested and no Swiss cheese as per our wishes. Both patties tasted fresh and were seasoned well, while the toppings and sauces made for good, trusty combinations.
All in all, from the immaculateness of the place, to the friendliness of the waiters ,to the accuracy when it comes to the orders to the mouth-watering burgers, the Westown Hub branch of Butcher’s Burger was almost faultless. We would have, however, preferred our fries, which were oh-so-crisp, to have been offered in a more generous portion.