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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.
The lengths that one is prepared to go to for good burgers in Cairo are pretty much infinite. Despite a whole host of gourmet burger restaurants opening around Cairo in recent times, there’s one place that has been around well before them: Fuddruckers.
Located near the small fountain in the outdoor restaurant area, the Mall of Arabia branch of Fuddruckers offers both indoor and outdoor seating. The waiter by the entrance welcomed us and led us to our requested outdoor table, which was notably immaculate. The venue itself was rather crowded during the time of our visit.
Menus were laid before us in no time and we began to scan them with rumbling stomachs. Fuddruckers offers perhaps some of the most appetising starters around; from Mozzarella Sticks (42LE) to Buffalo Chicken Wings (39LE) – some of the items can make for a full meal themselves. For main courses, Fuddruckers offers its infamous burgers, alongside steaks, chicken sandwiches, wraps, protein-topped salads and chicken and seafood platters.
Looking for something a little more exotic, we went for Caribbean Chicken Salad (44LE), alongside the sinful-sounding The Works Burger (47LE/ 1/3 lb.). Fuddruckers offers burger patties in 3 sizes; 1/3 lb, ½ lb and 2/3 lb; knowing, however, how generous their servings usually are, we decided to go with the smallest patty to save us the trouble of eating long after we were full.
One of the many available waiters came by and swiftly took our order and within twenty minutes, our glorious dishes were garnishing our table. The Caribbean Chicken Salad, which consisted of chopped lettuce, pineapple pieces and tomatoes topped with grilled chicken chunks and tortilla crisps, all drenched in honey mustard dressing was quite the tangy surprise; it tasted distinctly fresh with the sweetness of the dressing and pineapple pieces balanced by the savoury grilled chicken.
The Works burger, which comes with a side of French Fries, and consisted of a beef patty topped with sautéed mushrooms, cheese, lettuce, tomato slices, beef bacon and mayonnaise, was quite the hefty delight. Needless to say, we contemplated unbuttoning our jeans to leave some breathing room for our newly stretched stomachs. We would’ve, however, preferred a little extra mayo on the burger.
All in all, Fuddruckers, as usual, did not disappoint, with its efficient service and scrumptious dishes. Our food tasted fresh and was presented quite well, while the waiters were always around in case we needed something.