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Downtown, Cairo, Egypt.
Kazaz: Downtown Cairo’s Hub For Cheap Fast Food
It’s easy to get discouraged by cheap baladi food in Cairo, where sometimes a taameya sandwich for 2LE can be a huge, regrettable mistake. If you’re looking for a dependable baladi restaurant that delivers up Cairo’s yummiest fast food that’s also always affordable, however, then what you’re looking for is Kazaz.
Aside from offering every variety of taameya and foul that exists, Kazaz's shawerma sandwiches are Downtown’s finest. The meat is fresh and sautéed with tomatoes, onions and peppers. The sandwiches come in three sizes, the smallest of which is served in a semi-sweet, sesame seed Kaiser bun and drizzled with tehina sauce. The medium and larger sizes are served in classic, long shawerma rolls. Baladi burgers are another Kazaz classic that can hit the spot. In between a sesame seed roll, a perfectly sunny-side-up egg sits on a beef patty with cheese and all the fix-ins.
A review on Kazaz wouldn’t be complete without mentioning their terrific lentil soup. Although not quite suitable for warm weather, you might find yourself ordering it anyway; it’s just that irresistible. The lentil soup has the perfect thickness and is served with raw onion, fresh lemon and tiny pieces of crunchy, fried bread.
Conveniently located next to Ahwa Bustan and Stella Bar, many regulars pick up something quick before heading to a nearby hangout. Although Kazaz is mostly known for its fast food service, there is a seating area upstairs if you’re looking for a sit-down meal. Try the 1/4 chicken meal, which is served generously with chicken soup, rice, mixed vegetables and fresh salad. There are other Egyptian goodies and they’re all pretty delicious, including molokheya, mahshi and fresh okra in tomato sauce.
Kazaz’s take-away section stays open until the very early hours of the morning, so it’s a perfect place to satisfy a midnight craving or to hang out after a long night. Kazaz delivers in the Downtown area, so if you live in the neighbourhood; you’re in luck. They’re generally quite fast, but they definitely have their off nights.
Kazaz is living proof that delicious food in Egypt can be affordable. Foul and taameya varieties never exceed 2LE to3LE, shawermas cost between 4LE to 9LE, and lentil soup costs 4LE. Full meals, such as the 1/4 chicken meal, cost around 20LE to 25LE.
There’s nothing quite like the warmth of an authentic Egyptian dinner brewing in a kitchen. It’s a complex, almost ethereal, equation that many Cairo restaurants have tried to replicate and the latest to do so is La Fandi in Maadi.
The small venue is located in the dining complex, the Courtyard, houses a total of ten tables and has found its home in a cosy corner, where it’s managed to cultivate an even cosier atmosphere, drawing on 1960s Egypt for inspiration. Small touches like an old-timey radio, mason jars of pickled vegetables and old-school wooden chairs, tables and chairs hit the spot.
Like all cafes and restaurants at the Courtyard, La Fandi has outdoor and indoor seating arrangements, separated by the restaurant’s glass front.
At the time of our visit, two staff members were holding the fort, both of whom were more than welcoming. The menu is a little more intricate than one might assume, offering breakfast (till 11AM), a rather enticing selections of appetisers – referred to as na2na2a, or ‘snacking’ – as well as traditional Egyptian sandwiches and some creative hawawshi variations.
From the appetisers, we ordered some potato wedges with a special ‘Egyptian seasoning’ (10LE), an Alexandrian liver sandwich in saj bread (33LE), a roasted eggplant, tomato and arugula sandwich (15LE) and, most interestingly of all, hawawshi with pickled lemon (30LE).
The food took no less than 30 minutes to arrive, which is a little on get than you’d expect when considering the straightforward build of the each item; however, the staff assured us that the long waiting time is down to the fact that everything is made from scratch – including the bread.
Everything arrived wrapped nicely – fast-food style – and labelled. We dived into the potato wedges first, which were crispy and golden on the outside, soft and smooth on the inside, the special seasoning was more of a dressing, made up of tehina and sesame seeds, which all came together perfectly.
The hawawshi was next on our radar and it too was a little different to the traditional hawawshi you get elsewhere. The meat was noticeably fresh, lean and with next-to-no-fat, leaving the pickled lemon to still the proverbial show. The Alexandrian liver sandwich was just as successful, meanwhile; the liver was noticeably fresh and, unlike many similar sandwiches that see the peppers and the seasoning dominate the overall flavour, it was full of flavour. Not everything was perfect, though; the roasted eggplant was rather off. The eggplant itself was devoid of any flavour – to the extent that we opened up to sandwich to make sure – to find one slice of it, with the addition of mozzarella cheese. Though we welcome all and any creativity in food, the tomatoes clashed with the rest of the ingredients and, overall, it was really under-seasoned.
The modern spin on classic Egyptian food has been done many times over the last few years to mixed success; La Fandi follows suit to a certain extent, but largely plays within the box of the country’s traditional foods. This is both its greatest strength and its biggest weakness, but overall, we’d have no qualms in returning for a quick na2na2a, so to speak.