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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 thing we like most about shopping and dining zones like American Plaza is the numerous restaurants and food choices catering for those looking for a full meal or the ones looking for a quick bite on the go. We took a trip to Americana Plaza in Sheikh Zayed where among the many diners they have, we picked Fusion.
Known to be a haven for avid Asian foodies in the area, Fusion combines several Far East cuisines on its menu, including Chinese, Thai, Indian and Japanese.
Unlike the majority of Americana Plaza venues, the modern, orange and black ambiance inspired by the rich Asian cultures in Fusion restaurant, is both authentic and classy.
Tailored according to food preferences, the restaurant’s interior is divided to several sections including a Chinese corner and a sushi bar; the Teppaniyaki table is what stands out about Fusion’s setting the most, with the chef providing you a live show of your food being cooked over an iron griddle in front of you.
Being huge Chinese food fans, we took our seats into the Chinese corner, which encompasses dishes –mostly spicy ones— leaving you with limited choices with mild spices, including Chicken with Cashew Nut (45LE), Kung-Pao Cuttle Fish (45LE), Sweet and Sour Fish (45) and Crispy Chinese Duck (75LE).
We kicked things off with Golden Prawns Bags (40LE) as an appetizer which came in as crispy fried dumplings, infused with shrimps and served with a sweet chili sauce; similar in texture to the Vietnamese Nuoc Cham sauce.
Our appetizer had a perfect crispy texture on the exterior and a soft one on the interior; we particularly enjoyed the sweet and sour combination in our sauce; only we hoped the shrimps had more seasoning as it seemed there was a missing ingredient.
As our main dishes, we chose Vegetable Noodles (32LE) and a Sweet and Sour Shrimps Platter (88LE) served with steamed rice.
Our noodles were peppery, colorful and quite tasty; except that the featured vegetables were nothing but three types of onions (red, white and Chinese) with a single slice of both corn and mushroom.
Smothered in sweet and sour sauce, our shrimps didn’t have the promised crispy texture we’d hoped for, with an overcooked mediocre taste, which was a little disappointing.
We washed our meal down with a refreshing lemon juice (19LE) and with little room left for dessert, we opted for Fried ice cream (33LE).
Our ice cream had a delightful taste, with a gold crispy hot exterior and a cold delicious chocolate ice cream on the inside; the perfect combo of hot, fresh and cool. It was the first time we try a fried ice cream and definitely not the last.
Apart from several pitfalls including lack of shrimp seasoning in our appetiser and one of the main dishes being over- cooked, dining at Fusion was a delightful experience which we recommend to fans of Asian food. We really enjoyed the food, the atmosphere and the prompt professional service which stood out on a busy Friday night.