Sign in using your account with
Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Nawab: Zamalek's Beloved Indian is Still the Best in Cairo
Even with an exterior appearance that looks more like a barbershop than a place of gastronomy, Zamalek’s premier Indian restaurant Nawab has always had a place in many a Cairene heart. As with many ethnic cuisines in this schizophrenically consistent city, purveyors of good, reasonably priced Indian food are few and far between. Nawab’s slight new look, kitchen and considerate staff make a good go of filling that most desperate of needs.
Although Nawab conveniently provides home delivery, the food never seems quite as good as when you occupy the restaurant itself. Why? No one knows. It can’t be the rather drab decor or the feeble attempt at infusing the place with an air of authenticity by playing Bollywood films and music videos. Whatever the reason, eating out is as much about the feeding all five senses anyway.
Dinner began with an order of vegetable sambousak (12LE). Presented with two saucers of dips, the two pieces of sambousak were bursting with well cooked vegetables, although they were a little cold. The yoghurt, cucumber and mint dip clashed with the vegetables, while the tamarind dip was sweet with a bitter kick; a perfect foil to the rich pastry of the sambousak.
Late in its arrival, the prawns pakora (27LE) fell short of the other appetiser. Though it was served sizzling hot, the deep-fried pieces lacked seasoning and weren’t as agreeable to the complement of the dips as the sambousak was.
Luckily though, the mains blew away any dissatisfaction. An extraordinarily creamy khoya mutter paneer (33LE) tasted great with both garlic butter naan bread (8LE) and jeera rice (17LE). Although the meat of the dish, so to speak, is the paneer cheese, it’s the incredible gravy that makes it one of the best Indian dishes on the menu. The plain tasting paneer, which falls somewhere between halloumi and cottage cheese, added little to the dish, whereas the cashews and peas added a texture to the gravy. It complimented the sharp cumin of the jeera rice and the crunchy flakes and soft centre of the naan bread perfectly.
As did the lamb kadai (60LE), which is one of the more expensive items on the menu. Although the decent-sized pieces of lamb ranged from slightly dry to melt-in-your-mouth tender, the crimson massala sauce gave the dish a spicy tang. It’s also one of the sexiest looking dishes you’ll ever see.
Stumbling out of Nawab with a full-belly-induced limp and a slight throb of spice on your tongue, the only regret is that this marvellous restaurant doesn’t serve alcohol. Because everyone knows that nothing goes better with a curry than an ice-cold beer.
We love Indian cuisine. It’s rich in flavour and completely immerses you in the eating experience. Begum, Nawab’s sister restaurant, has a modest venue on Road 276 in Maadi. Dimly lit and decorated with Indian paintings and murals, and furnished with dark wood tables and chairs, be prepared for a very decent feast.
The menu is quite extensive and features everything from soups and appetisers, to chicken, lamb and seafood. It also includes Indian desserts like Kulfi, the Indian version of ice cream, and Gulab Jamun, a dough ball with milk solids deep fried and served with syrup.
We dove into the menu to compare one of our favourite dishes, Butter Chicken, and pick something we haven’t tried before as well. We opted for the Chicken Butter Masala (45LE) as well as Chicken Shahi Korma (45LE). Additionally, we ordered Basmati Rice (16LE) and Vegetable Pilau (28LE) and Garlic Butter Naan (9LE), because you will, of course, want to dip straight into the sauce.
The food was served a fair 20-30 minutes later. To be fair to Begum, their Butter Chicken is a little different to other restaurants; it’s not as heavy or creamy, but slightly spicier and, as always, very flavourful. The chicken cubes were large, tender and tasty. The Vegetable Pilau, made of yellow basmati rice with vegetables, cottage cheese and nuts, was a very teasing mixture of flavours and textures which, together with the chicken, created a very satisfying meal.
The Chicken Shahi was even tastier. Cooked with yoghurt, cashews and almonds creating a delicious gravy sauce, the dish was just irresistible. Combined the simplicity of white basmati rice, or the tasty Garlic Butter Naan, the Chicken Shahi has easily become our favourite dish at Begum.
Begum fared very well, the service was fast and efficient, the food was delicious and the bill was very decent. It checks all the boxes required for a no-nonsense, eat-until-you-can’t-eat-anymore restaurant. It also offers Desi-Chinese cuisine at its sister venue China Town at the same location in Maadi, which is a cuisine made popular by chinese immigrants in India