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Zamalek, Cairo, Egypt.
Metro: Cairo Supermarket Chain, Open 24 Hours
Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with branches all over Cairo Metro is the favourite supermarket of many Egyptians and expats alike.
The supermarket's Zamalek branch is located on the ground floor of a dusty building complex on the corner of Ismail Mohamed Street, which makes it hard to spot unless you see employees unloading goods down the stairs from a clearly labelled Metro truck.
This chain has a brilliant delivery service; but you have to be very specific about the items that you order or they might mess it up. However, delivery time is short and they stock all of your essential grocery needs.
Meat at Metro Market is moderately prices with a kilo of minced meat at 60LE (the more lean kind will set you back a little extra) and a fresh whole chicken at 18LE. Most of the butchers at the counters are patient, considerate of your needs and knowledgeable in both foreign and domestic cuts.
The deli counter is extensive, boasting imported cheese brands that are not commonly found in Cairo. Although prices run a little high for these cheeses, a regular order of roumi or cheddar cheese won’t cost you much at all. Make sure to try their low-salt roumi cheese (33LE a kilo); one of the best cheeses that our city has to offer. They also stock a wide range of pickles, olives and fresh salads as well as dips such as tehina and baba ghanough. Smoked meats are available too; be sure to sample their air-thin and not-too-salty basterma meat.
The produce at Metro can be rather pricey compared to street vendors all over Cairo, However, they tend to package most of their greens and the germaphobe in us is very appreciative of that. They stock both local and imported produce, so you can find organic fruits and veggies by local companies such as Sekem and Pico, not just hormone injected, mass-produced imports.
Speaking of organic; products by local companies Wadi Foods and Dina Farms are well-stocked at Metro, including Dina Farms’ organic fresh milk and yogurt, and Wadi Foods’ olive oils, olive pastes and tomato sauces.
One downside to this chain is that not all its branches stock the same merchandise: while they all have the same greens and baked goods, your favourite shower gel might be missing from one branch with no chance of restocking anytime soon.
Another thing this supermarket lacks is a healthy supply of well-priced snacks. Although they stock an extensive collection of imported chips, chocolates and cereals, the items often seem outdated with most of their packaging bruised up and messy. Metro also seems to prefer stocking up on imported goods rather than Egyptian snacks, with Chipsy and Rotato bags spread extremely sparsely on their shelves.The Zamalek branch doesn’t stock any dishes or kitchen utensils, but you can find a corner carrying paper and dispensable utensils and cups, while another carries light-bulbs, extension cords and a small collection of mugs. Aside from that, Metro is a well-stocked supermarket in the strictest sense of the word.
We can all agree that cooking is not everyone’s cup of tea, despite the fact that making a homemade meal is actually quite easy. But busy work schedules or just general cluelessness when it comes to the kitchen, means that many end up ordering food. Yesterday was one of those days where we just wanted to chill at home and we found out about the frozen food masters, Food Swings.
Food Swings is a one-of-a-kind delivery-based operation providing homemade, frozen food that is either microwaveable, or ready for the fryer, oven, or even the sandwich-maker. The meals can be stored for up to 3 months and to most take between 10 to 30 minutes to heat – something we just had to try. You can make orders via phone or Facebook messaging, with Food Swings delivering to different areas of Cairo on different days – check out the schedule here.
We found only 8 choices from the ‘Frozen on Duty’ section of the menu and 4 types of pizza from the ‘Pizza Madness’ section. However, there was a lot of interesting choices like Mexican Hawawshy (54LE) and Shawerma Pizza (49LE) but we decided to go with the Risotto Balls (32LE) as an appetiser, and as our mains, we opted for the Large Lasagna (98LE) and the Mexican Chicken Wraps (41LE).
We were super impressed by how cheerful the packaging was, the clear instructions and the use of vacuum packing, as removing the oxygen extends the life span of food and keep it fresh, while also making it much easier to store in your freezer at home.
The risotto balls - all 17 of them – were filled with a good amount of cheese and the risotto itself was rich and creamy, while still retaining a small bite to it like any perfect al-dente risotto should be. As for the crust, it was well-seasoned with Italian spices and had a perfect golden-brown colour – although that’s something we’ll take credit for.
Due to technical issues with our oven - which reminded us to buy a new one - we decided use the microwave for the lasagne. Despite this, the layers of the smooth and creamy béchamel sauce mixed with cheese, well-seasoned beef Bolognese bursting with tomato flavour, and of course their homemade lasagne sheets, left us wondering, what kind of sorcery they used to make frozen food taste so fresh?
Just so we’re clear, we didn’t burn the Mexican chicken wraps; what you see up there are beautiful grill marks. There were 5 wraps to be defrosted in the microwave then heated in a sandwich maker. While the mixture of chicken, red pepper, corn, red beans, green onions, spinach, chilli-pepper and shredded cheddar cheese, looks great on paper, we didn’t feel the presence of cheese at all and the chilli-pepper was just overpowered by the other flavours.
We finished our meal with Cinnamon Caramel Roll Jar (22LE) and no, it’s not microwaveable and we didn’t have to put it in the sandwich maker – this comes readymade. Soft layers of cinnamon rolls are topped with luscious salted caramel sauce, pastry cream and a generous amount of pecans. This dessert would’ve been flawless if they left the pastry cream out, as it was bland in taste and didn’t really belong with the cinnamon and caramel.
Overall, Food Swings is an incredibly practical option and the experience itself is actually pretty fun. The order came on time, the online responses are quick and professional and it’s a great concept that will save time and effort for newlyweds, working moms, or bachelors. It's certainly better than most frozen foods found in supermarkets, but if you're looking something more than that, the variety might dissapoint.