El Dessouki: Quick Egyptian Meals in Zamalek
Ahmed El Dahan
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.