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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.
With summer on the way, one of everyone’s favourite seaside destinations will almost definitely be El Gouna. Besides the relaxed atmosphere, casual sense of luxury and exquisite views, El Gouna is known for its addictively good food – the kind that will make you kiss goodbye your beach-bod and say hello to the dad-bod; but an eye-catching kiosk called Lobster Rooster could prove to be particularly popular.
Located at Marina Abu Tig, Lobster Rooster is essentially a stationary food-truck strategically placed and standing out with its vibrant colours. The use of white with red and black – in everything from the logo and the doodling on the kiosk, to the tables, chairs and even the ashtrays – gives the place a fun vibe, as does the varied seating arrangements.
As with most food truck-like concepts, Lobster Rooster keeps things simple, serving only two savoury rolls – lobster roll (100LE) and rooster roll (60LE) – and one dessert, the Brioche Con Gelato roll (30LE).
Supposedly drizzled with mango, the rooster roll was bursting with flavours and perfectly seasoned, but we didn’t feel the presence of the mango. The brioche bread rolls themselves were perfectly toasted on the outside, which added an exquisite crunch that made way for the super buttery and soft interior with every bite.
Though we were keener to try the lobster roll – considering it costs 100LE – it was rather disappointing. To its credit, the generous amount of lobster chunks mixed the Lobster Rooster’s secret sauce held together and didn’t become soggy as one might expect. However, there was no need for the extra butter lemon sauce on the side, considering that the sandwich already had a zesty kick thanks to the secret sauce. Most disappointing of all, though, was that the lobster was noticeably not fresh and the particular taste of old seafood was difficult to escape
All the rolls are served with homemade French fries, which were well-cooked and perfectly seasoned. Unfortunately, the Brioche Con Gelato was unavailable at the time of our visit, but all in all, the concept of Lobster Rooster is a perfect fit for El Gouna – it’s quick, on-the-go kind-of food that’s a little different. However, with the small sandwiches costing 60LE and 100LE, you can’t help but be a little disappointed when they’re not perfect.