Badawiya: Authentic Bedouin Cuisine at Citystars
Large, international chains on Cairo’s restaurant scene generally take precedence over the slightly more unusual and traditional cuisines. However, with a huge marketing effort behind it, Badaweya – the Bedouin restaurant on the fourth floor of Citystars – has been causing quite a stir.
The restaurant has found itself a wealth of space, offering both indoor and outdoor seating areas. The charming decor is traditional, complete with ornaments, hanging rugs and impressive landscape photographs. Thankfully, uncomfortable floor arrangements and giant copper trays are nowhere to be seen, but instead, the solid wooden tables and deep chairs are both grand and comfortable. Furthermore, staff members are dressed in traditional Bedouin attire as they greet patrons with Arabian coffee and dates.
Unfortunately, we had to contend with TV screens showing Rotana Gulf, which snapped us back into reality every few minutes.
The menu includes a wide variety of rice, biryani, mandy, kabsa, maqlooba and fatta dishes. The meat section boasts lamb cut grills, as well as pigeon stuffed with freek and okra, molokheya and potatoes. Guests also have the option of creating their own meals by ordering meat or chicken by the kilo. Where desserts are limited to konafa with cream, drinks include rayeb milk, goat or camel milk and a selection of fresh fruit juices.
For special occasions, a separate menu offers whole lambs, with a selection of sides.
After an informative chat with a waiter well versed in Bedouin cuisine, he recommended we order an ouzi (calf) with biryani rice (99LE), with the addition of nuts and pine nuts (15LE) and a shrimp kabsa (99LE). We also ordered a tagine of molokheya (19LE) on the side, along with tahina, yoghurt and daqous – tomatoes with garlic and spices (5LE/each).
We came to learn the differences between rice cooking styles: biryani is yellow basmati rice with vegetables, whilst mandy is white rice with fried yellow rice added in, and Kabsa is made of red rice with black pepper.
Each dish was generously portioned and wonderfully cooked. Our grilled ouzi transpired to be tastefully lean calf meat, with flavourful, aromatic Bedouin spices. The kabsa, served with jumbo shrimp, had an incredible, unique flavour. Made with chicken soup, the molokheya tasted better than even the finest homemade versions.
Known for aiding digestion, we enjoyed a cold glass of slightly salty camel milk. Despite being the only dessert on offer, the konafa with cream tasted delicious.
With its reputation preceding it, Badawiya not only offers great service, but also delicious, high quality food derived from a largely unexplored sub-culture of food.