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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.
When it comes to dining in Cairo, Zamalek is the go to hub of restaurants. With so many of the newer restaurants aiming to bring something new to the market, good local cuisine is becoming harder to find. However, unswayed by the contemporary shift, the long-standing El Dessouki continues to serve Egyptian food as it has done for the past 70years.
Tucked away in a quiet alleyway behind Sufi, the outdoor seating area is strangely cosy, with basic plastic chairs and table-clothed tables.
Shortly after being seated, we were approached by a waiter with a profuse sense of typical Egyptian humour. When asked for a menu, he jokingly insisted that he was so well versed in the restaurants dishes that there was no need. He then proceeded to list everything they offer in quick succession.
Traditional Egyptian dishes are available including rice akawy with kidneys, molokheya (7LE), torley (7LE) – a vegetable mix with salsa – pan fried chicken (48LE), beef (30LE), black eyed peas (7LE), pasta béchamel (7LE), spaghetti (6LE), penne (5LE) and mooza (30LE) – tender, fatty thigh meat – amongst many more choices. Balady salad, baba ghnaoug and tehina are also on offer (2LE each).
We ordered one dish of rice, black-eyed beans, salad and dips along with pasta béchamel, half a pan fried chicken (24LE) and a plate of kabab hala (30LE), or pan cooked meat. Everything is pre-prepared and in no time we were enjoying Egyptian cuisine at its best. The pasta béchamel was a generous portion of penne pasta, prepared with a thick layer of cream and topped with flavourful salsa. The rice and black-eyed peas were a delicious combination, especially with the thick salsa sauce covering the beans. The salads were delectable, fresh and crunchy; the balady salad consisted of tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce and, much to our delight, plenty of onions. While the tehina was smooth and topped with a decent shot of vinegar, the baba ghnaough had a strong eggplant flavour and was surprisingly spicy.
Unfortunately, Dessouki don’t offer grilled chicken – strictly fried. None the less, the juicy chicken was served hot, and peeling its crunchy skin made it all the more palatable. Slightly bland in comparison to the chicken, the beef was served in soft chunks, topped with a light gravy. Aside from the salads, everything served here is both greasy and a little too salty.
Grease aside, Dessouki offers a great, no-frills, traditional dining experience at moderately low prices, in arguably the most expensive neighbourhood in the city.