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Nasr City, Cairo, Egypt.
El Shabrawy: Gamut of Cheap, Egyptian Cuisine
While Cairenes never suffer from a lack of foul, shawerma, or eggplant-serving restaurants, knowing which establishment is best at what traditional dish is always good to keep in mind.
El Shabrawy is well-known by many Cairenes and with locations strewn across Cairo , our overly visited branch lies on Nubar Street near Downtown’s neighbourhood of Bab El Louk. El Shabrawy in Downtown is definitely a no-frills, fill-your-tummy kind of place, where the staff is really friendly and gets the job done. A few tables and chairs are available for dining in, while most patrons seem to opt for take away.
One of the best things about this El Shabrawy branch is that they serve up an extensive array of options that are not only reasonably cheap but include fast food alternatives to the ever-so-common KFC or McDonalds chain.
The foul comes with a variety of options, including additions of sausage, basterma, and tomato sauce. However, the Alexandrian foul (1.75LE per sandwich) is delicious with fresh green peppers, onion, and tomato pulled straight from the refrigerator. The hearty serving of vegetables isn’t the norm when accompanying foul but adds a bit of a kick, alongside the chilli spice topping it off.
You can grab a chicken shawerma for 5LE, but the bun leaves little to be desired; usually dry and too much bread for the skimpy amount of chicken that you actually receive.
For just 3LE, a tub of Baba Ghanough is usually a promising side-dish to have at home, while their dolmah is a pleasant surprise. For approximately 10LE, a plate of dolmah is served piled high with stuffed peppers, eggplant and vine leaves. Although it’s greasy, you’ll be stuffed and have enough for leftovers.
Don’t miss out on dessert; El Shabrawy is always stocked with a sufficient amount of rice pudding and om ali when you need something sweet. For 3LE, you can’t go wrong.
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.