Kushari (Egypt’s Must-try Vegan Street Food)

Kushari is a must-try Egyptian vegan street food that you can easily create in your own kitchen.  It includes heaps of playful vermicelli rice, mixed with lentils and al dente pasta, and topped with crispy fried onions, and are served with two sauces: a fiery tomato sauce, and a tangy vinegar-garlic one.

The Story of Kushari, or Koshari 

Although it is a street food, Kushari remains an epitome of a cosmopolitan era that once prevailed in Egypt.  In many ways, this dish is an effortless fusion food at best.

The most common story about Koshari is that it was inspired by Kidchdi the Indian dish. Kidchdi came with the Indians, who in the 19th century flocked to Egypt along with the British troops.

Kidchi became popular among Egyptian too,  as they shared with their Indian their exotic food,  as well as their grievances against the British imperialist.

Ostensibly, the Indian dish was set on evolving, as Kushari soon landed in the kitchen of some Italian expat living in Cairo.  The Italian dude artfully added macaroni pasta and vermicelli.  

To baptize the dish Egyptian, locals elaborated two secret sauces to serve with the dish: A fiery tomato sauce, and a tangy vinegar-garlic one.

What is Special About Kushari

Kushari is an authentic vegan Egyptian dish that bursts with flavors and filling.

It offers to your palate multiple textures that starts the playful vermicelli rice, mixed with cooked-to-perfection lentils, al dente pasta and tender chickpeas.  All gets topped with crispy fried onions and are served with two sauces: a fiery tomato sauce, and Daqqah, a tangy, cumin spiked vinegar-garlic cooked sauce.

In my humble opinion, the sauces are the indisputable heroes here as they elevate the dish.

Thanks to their tuned garlicky bite, calculated acidic tang, and moderate spiciness, the two sauce morph dry heaps of bland carb staples into an edifice of nuanced textures, and juicy, tantalizing flavors that hit all taste buds at once.  Hands down, Kushari rivals the fanciest meat dishes.

Kushari is also a crowd pleaser that you can make ahead and freeze (excluding the sauce).  You can cook the rice, vermicelli, pasta and freeze until you want to serve them. The sauces though should be made the day before or on the same day.

What Is The perfect Kushari, Koshari 

The perfect Kushari has:

  • Fluffy rice

  • Cooked but not mushy lentils

  • Crispy onions that are not burnt

  • Al dente pasta  

  • Tomato Sauce that isn’t too sour

In order to achieve the perfect consistency and flavor, prepare and measure all the ingredients in advance. The mise en place will make this recipe come together in no time and will spare you the panic of switching between the different steps.

Stir frying all

Kushari Is A One Pot Wonder 

Believe it or not, you can cook the rice, vermicelli, elbow macaroni, lentils all is one pot in less than 15 minutes. However you need to prep and measure the ingredients in advance to save time and energy.

Also follow the following order to reduce waste:

  • Rinse the black lentils in hot water in 1 hour
  • Rinse the basmati rice for 30 minutes in cold water
  • Start by frying the yellow onions, until crispy. Store the onions and reserve the onion-infused oil
  • Make the two sauce using the onion infused oil
  • Use the onion-infused oil to cook the rice, vermicelli, macaroni, and lentils

Lent Iconic Dish

The Egyptian Christian minority often eats Kushari around Lent, which, in the orthodox faith, lasts 55 days and culminates with Easter.

Kushari is a dish that transcends boundaries, and it doesn’t stop evolving. In 2013, the London-based, Lebanese-born food writer Anisa Helou launched, in the heart of London, Koshari Street,” a hole in the wall eatery that serves her signature Kushari. 

For More Vegan Dishes Check:

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Kushari or Koshari

Serves 6 – 8 people

INGREDIENTS

Fried Onions & Onion-Infused Oil 

  • 1 kg of shallots or 4 big onions, thinly sliced (see notes)
  • 2 1/2 cups oil for frying
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

Kushari

Daqqah (Vineger-Garlic Sauce)

  • 1 tablespoon onion-infused oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 cup of white distilled vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water, room temperature
  • Salt and pepper

Spicy Tomato Sauce 

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 cups fresh or store bought tomato juice
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of crushed garlic
  • salt and pepper to you taste

DIRECTIONS 

For Garnish: 

  • Fried onions (see recipe above)
  • Tomato-garlic  sauce (see recipe above)
  • Daqqah (Garlic-Vinegar Vinaigrette), (see recipe above)
  • Chili-garlic oil (recipe above)
  • ½ cup chickpeas, soaked and boiled (or canned)

DIRECTIONS 

  1. Fry the onions: In a large frying pan, add the oil and heat, once it gets warm and not hot, add the julienned onions and keep stirring with a wooden spoon on low heat, until all the onion slices start to crisp up and turn into a golden hued color.  Remove the fried onions with a slotted spoon and let them rest on absorbent paper in one layer. Don’t pile them as they will get soggy. This onion will be used to garnish the kushari.
  2. Strain the onion-infused oil: let the same oil you used for frying the onion come to room temperature, and then strain using a fine mesh sieve fitted unto a clean deep bowl. Set it aside as you will use this onions-infused in the following steps
  3. Make the Tomato-Garlic sauce. Heat the onion-infused oil in a medium saucepan, over low heat, once hot, add the crushed garlic, once it becomes fragrant, add the vinegar followed by the tomato juice, the spices, let it simmer on low heat for 5 minutes. Add some water if the sauce becomes too thick.
  4. Make the Daqqah (garlic-vinegar sauce): Add the onion-infused onion to a small saucepan and heat. Once hot, add the crushed garlic, once it becomes fragrant, add immediately the vinegar followed by the water, lemon, and season with salt, pepper, and cumin. If the sauce is too strong, add one or two tablespoons of water. Turn off the heat, pour the vinaigrette into a sauce boat, and set it aside to serve it at room temperature later with the kushari.
  5. Make the Chili-Garlic oil: Add the onion-infused oil to the same pan you used for making the daqqah in the previous step. Once the oil is hot, add the pepper flakes and keep stirring in the hot oil until it becomes so fragrant, add the vinegar, ¼ cup of the tomato-garlic sauce, , season with cumin, salt and pepper, let it simmer for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside to serve with the kushari.
  1. Relax, and watch everything quickly disappearing.

NOTES

  • To avoid onions-onions-triggered tears, keep a lit candle on your workstation where you are slicing the onions.
  • Invest in a good quality of basmati rice. This specific ingredient could make or break Kushari.  Soak the rice for 30 minutes in cold water, and then rinse it several times under tap water until the water runs clear.
  • Best Kushari places in Cairo are Abu Tarek  and kushari Al Tahrir.
  • You can double up the ingredients for a second batch of Kushari.

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Former diplomat | Travel & Food Writer | Stauch advocate of Culinary Diplomacy. Find more here: https://cheznermine.com/about/

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