Just like any self-respecting metropolitan city, Cairo is home to countless dining options. Everything from Chinese and sushi to Italian and French is available. Even local cuisine is on the up, with baladi-chic concept restaurants taking on the hundreds of street stalls serving authentic Egyptian food.
However, there are some who have chosen to bravely introduce a new cuisine to the city. Enticing the residents of Cairo to step out of their comfort zone is like fighting a losing battle sometimes, but nonetheless, they have prevailed and in turn brought us exotic flavours from around the world.
In an effort to go about our list in an organised way, we begin in the heart of Cairo.
The most peculiar element about the Tahrir Table is undoubtedly its location. The restaurant is in the middle of Tahrir Square, opening shortly after the revolution. Being the first to introduce Swedish food in Cairo (the IKEA we’ve been supposed to get for the past four years will surely be next) we can now indulge in quality meatballs, potato dishes and, more importantly, quality salmon.
For a taste of Ethiopian and Sudanese food, you have to be persistent as Arij is difficult to find. The restaurant is literally a hole in the wall and disguised as a regular ahwa (coffee shop). Inside, however, is a treasure cave of food ready to be discovered. There you will find the most succulent lamb, delicious stews and pancake bread that also serves as plates. For just 20LE you can eat your full round and enjoy the delectable cuisine from our southern neighbours.
What do you do when you're stranded in a foreign country and you can’t find any food you like? Simple: you open a restaurant. That’s exactly what the Chinese students from Al Azhar did. Its deviant location on the borders of Abbasiya, Islamic Cairo and City of the Dead near the Al Azhar University dorms makes this restaurant all the more exciting. The Chinese food here differs from your usual Chinese food because it derives specifically from the Uyghur region where the population is predominantly Muslim. Apart from having the best tofu in town, they also serve a bowl of top noodle soup. Prices are low as are the hygiene standards, however it all adds up to the uniqueness of this restaurant.
If you are looking for some uncensored Brazilian food then say obrigado to Amelia’s Kitchen who are the sole providers of Brazilian food in Cairo. Though the main courses are a lot like Italian, Spanish and Portuguese food (blame that on colonialism) the desserts on the other hand are very typical Brazilian. Amelia’s Kitchen prefers if you take out the food instead of staying for dinner.
When the great warlord Genghis Khan ventured out to Asia and Europe to ‘take over the world’ he probably couldn’t have imagined that 1000 years later a restaurant in the neighbourhood of Maadi in Cairo would bear his name. Hell, he would probably roll over in his grave a little if he heard that; the warlord wasn’t famous for his cooking after all. Though we found it difficult to identify the original Mongolian cuisine, their hot pot apparently is just that; the rest of the dishes are primarily Chinese. That being said though, they do claim to be the only Mongolian restaurant in Cairo. We especially enjoyed the Chinese soft-porn on the walls and wondered if in 1000 years from now someone will open up a restaurant and call it Hosni Mubarak.
If there is anyone who has a fond memory of Iraqis and food then it’s probably Suzanne Mubarak who saw Uday Hussein slaughter a designated food taster in the middle of her dinner party. Thankfully this sort of business doesn’t take place at El Mazag El Iraqi. Instead, the restaurant offers some exclusive Iraqi dishes such as tashreeb el lahm. Though a lot of their food is similar to Egyptian and other Middle Eastern cuisines, there is still an Iraqi twist to most of the dishes like the biryani. For those who don’t want to venture out to the country itself, this restaurant is a pleasant alternative.
If there is one thing Yemenis love to do, other than emigrating to the west or shacking up with Al Qaeeda, it is throwing turmeric, cardamom and likewise spices into each and every meal. The Yemeni restaurant is a hate-it-or-love-it cafeteria in Dokki. The beans with eggs are delicious, however consistency is not; several visits we either found the food over spiced or under spiced. However, they are one of the few venues in town that offer food from the peninsula.