The Intrepid Herbivores

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Dispatches from anyplace: “Where In The World Did You Find This Vegan Food?”

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The visa for EgyptOh, intrepid friends! You are such an adventurous bunch that I have been dying to incorporate more of your experiences from the field. Granted, it is a cheap stop-gap to address my ever-present wanderlust. Even though I love my home in Portland, Oregon, I love cultivating my garden, I love my house and my community, I am always looking forward to my next voyage. “Where are you going next” is a question I hear not only from friends and followers, but believe me, I am constantly asking it of myself.

Well, never you worry, there are plenty of adventures for us coming down the pike for these intrepid herbivores, but in the meantime I can’t get enough about where in the world everybody else is exploring!

Hence the first in what is to become regular instalments of:

“WHERE IN THE WORLD DID YOU FIND THIS VEGAN FOOD?”

Egypt, Population 84 Million.

Our first submission comes from Intrepid Friend Jantra. Jantra is about as dauntless as they come! Having recently married her “Crush-Man” Ahmed, she has moved to Alexandria, Egypt on a life-long adventure of love! She is a gifted storyteller and I adore chatting with her from across the world as she describes to me the challenges and joys she experiences as an American woman incorporating into an Egyptian family, as she adopts and adjusts to a new home in a new culture. I am looking forward to visiting Jantra and Ahmed soon, but in the meantime she keeps my appetite active by describing not only the incredible culture and history she gets to experience and explore every day, but also the FOOD! She sent me this photo just the other day after taking a trip to the capital city of Cairo:

kosharyfromjantra

KOSHARY in Cairo. Photo by Jantra

WHAT IS IT?

Koshary (also spelled koshari, kushary, kushari, koshery, etc). Jantra describes it as “Cairo’s most popular food. It consists of cous cous, noodles, browned onions and a variety of beans. It has a red tomato-based “salsa” that goes over the top and can be flavored to taste with hot sauce and a spicy garlic sauce they make.”

WHERE CAN I FIND IT?

It is a very popular and traditional food throughout Egypt. Wikipedia describes it as “end of the month food,” with its mixture of a little bit of everything that can include rice, macaroni, spaghetti, lentils, beans, chickpeas, all kinds of carbohydrate goodness that might be left over from previous meals. It is also a very filling dish that will keep you going for a long time. Heba Fatteen Bizzari writes a great description of it and the experience of eating it at Tour Egypt.

WHAT ARE SOME PHRASES TO HELP ME ORDER FOOD WHEN I’M IN EGYPT?

Arabic is the official language. Being so widely spoken, it has its own variations and colloquialisms depending on the region, but here are some general (transliterated) phrases to get you started:

Ana nabateeya/nabatee (“I am vegetarian” female/male)

Mish akool lahma walla frackh khalis (I don’t eat meat or chicken)

Khodar (vegetables)

Shukran (thank you)

(source: forums at wordreference.com)

WHAT’S A NON-FOOD RELATED TRAVEL TIP FOR WHEN I VISIT?

Tipping is customary (and expected) for most services, so be prepared to pay a little something for any assistance you might receive. Jantra also recommends paying close attention to the cultural dress code (sleeves to the elbows, skirts or pants at least to the calves, and it’s respectful to keep hair covered with a scarf if you plan to visit any mosques). And because you’ll be tempted to wear them because it’s hot, remember that while flip-flops are reasonably acceptable culturally, they are not practical for the terrain of Egypt’s streets–you will be walking through some breathtaking architectural landscapes but remember that these cities are living iterations of ancient history–and you want to be able to enjoy the atmosphere without worrying about how your footwear might–or might not–get along with the pavement!

THIS FOOD SOUNDS AWESOME BUT IT WILL BE A WHILE ‘TIL I CAN VISIT. HOW CAN I MAKE KOSHARY AT HOME? 

This dish is a great way to use up leftovers: rice, noodles, lentils, cous cous, chickpeas, even extra tomato sauce. It strikes me as something that can inspire a lot of variation. Nada at One Arab Vegan has a health-ified version here. And for a rendition that Carol at Dinner Is Vegan describes as “so many components, so few vegetables,” check out her blog here.

I know I, for one, am going to start saving aside some extras the next time I make anything using lentils, rice, pasta, etc, and hope to have my own koshary collection going by the end of the week! I was obsessed with the art, architecture, religion and culture of ancient Egypt when I was a kid. It has long been a dream of mine to visit this site that has incredible historical significance to the human race. Learning more about its rich and varied culinary traditions is a sweet bonus!

Did you find some incredible vegan food somewhere in the world? Send me a picture and yours could be featured next!

 

 

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This entry was posted on June 19, 2013 by in recipes, travel stories, Uncategorized.

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