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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
El Gomhoria Fish: Old School Fish Cart in Zamalek
Sometimes, all you need in Cairo is a quick and cheap bite to eat. Seeing as how Zamalek is already short on traditional foul and taameya stands, this is a nice alternative when you’re on-the-go and in need of a little something to fill your tummy.
Located on 26th of July between Shagaret El Dor Street and El Saleh Ayoub Street, El Gomhoria is a Zamalek staple and has been around for decades. It isn’t anything fancy to say the least. It's essentially a small hole-in-the-wall with the fish cart parked directly in front of it. Loudly labelled ‘Fish Cart’, keep an eye out and you won’t miss it.
From the look of things, the kitchen itself, although a little rusted, seemed clean and rather well organized.
Their menus are abounded - both printed for takeaway and on the wall above the doors. Whether you’re on the go or seated, it’ll only take a few minutes for your food to arrive; there’s no lollygagging around and we appreciated that greatly. A small table with chairs is located on the pavement if you’d prefer to stay and enjoy your meal there.
For starters, soups and salads are available. Soups, including gandolfi (Egyptian clams), range from 15LE to 18LE. Salads (1LE-10LE) include pickled eggplant, calamari and a standard green salad with lettuce, tomato and onion.
If you’re looking for larger portions or a meal for many, El Gomhoria serves meal platters (15LE-30LE) and fish by the kilo (40LE-85LE). Meal platters come with rice, pickles, salad and your choice of fish, while a kilo of grilled white fish fillet will cost you a reasonable 40LE.
The sandwiches though, are by far the easiest and most popular; you are given a choice of bread (baladi or French) and fish (fried or grilled – calamari, shrimp, fillet and a few lesser known others).
Medium and large are the only sizes available – a medium shrimp sandwich in baladi bread is 7LE and includes a cup of lightly fried shrimp and tehina. We also enjoyed the fish fillet on French bread; flavoured well, a dose of lemon and tehina finish it off quite nicely.
While El Gomhoria also delivers, taking a load off and having a sandwich on-site is usually enjoyable: the friendly guys behind the counter might even encourage it.
As far as we know, the biggest twist on shawerma in Cairo involves pomegranate molasses; and if you’re really out-of-the-box maybe you’ll add extra cheese. Well, that’s so yesterday because Shawarmaister is taking shawerma to the next level by introducing Coleslaw shawerma and BBQ shawerma, as well as a Light shawerma.
Located on Taha Hussein Street in Zamalek, the restaurant is divided into two floors; the ground floor is for takeout and other is for dine-in. The whole place is filled with posters with seemingly irrelevant quotes and sayings like “Ma bethez el 3orosh ela El neswan wel qorosh”, which make no sense whatsoever to the concept, while the yellow ceiling is a little overwhelming compared to the otherwise demure interior. On the bright side, the couches were very comfortable and the ambiance is very chill.
We kicked things off with Kobeba (20LE) and French Fries with a Garlic sauce dip (5LE). Apart from being a bit salty, the kobeba had a crispy exterior and great amount of flavourful minced beef filling. Even though the garlic sauce had a good consistency for dipping and was delicious, the fries didn’t need a dip, because not only were they cooked perfectly and far from oily, but also had very impressive seasoning blend.
Moving to the mains, we opted for the Kofta Halabi Platter (45LE); four pieces of kofta with a side of basmati rice and a special halabi sauce that we had mixed feelings towards. The rice was light, fluffy and had a beautiful yellow colour which had us expecting exquisite flavours from the spices – but it was just bland. Meanwhile, despite bursting with flavours thanks to the seasoning, the kofta was a bit dry and overcooked. As for the special halabi sauce, the waiter mentioned that it was infused with mustard, coleslaw and has sweet and sour flavours, but it was just your typical tehina.
Of the new shawarma, we tried BBQ Shawarma Lahm sandwich (Large 22.5LE). Served in Saj bread, the mixture of beef shawarma – which was a bit chewy - caramelised onion, BBQ sauce and coleslaw created an exquisite modern twist on the classic shawarma. If you’re into sweet and savoury fusion, then this is the perfect sandwich for you.
We couldn't leave without also chicken shawarma. Served in Lebanese bread, the Shawarmaister Shawarma Djej (Regular 17.5LE) was filled to the brim with chicken, the restaurants amazing fries, pickled cucumber,and garlic sauce. With the generous amount of filling and the sharp flavours, this sandwich showed simplicity at its best.
Despite service being slow at the time of our visit, we can’t help but appreciate Shawarmaister adding twists to a classic and actually making it work. Whether you’re looking for a basic chicken or beef shawerma or something a little more out-of-the-box, there are few places better than Shawarmaister.