While I was researching for my Mediterranean recipe post, I came across this National dish of Egypt. The Koshari! of course this dish had to be included in my Mediterranean food post. It was a great surprise! It is delicious, and will from now on definitely be included in my home food repertoire.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
So, as I have never been in Egypt myself I started doing some research on this interesting dish. I have to be completely honest, when I first understood its ingredients it didn't sound that appealing to me. Basically its ingredients are; Rice, pasta, lentil, chickpeas and tomato sauce. An interesting combination!
🧾 Koshari's history
I guess to understand this dish, it is necessary to understand a little bit about its history. Around the mid 19th Century Egypt was in an economic boom. It was a very multicultural country. The koshari is evidence of this multicultural period. Its ingredients are a mixture of Italian cuisine and Indian cuisine, flavoured with the local spices.
Currently the Koshari is the National dish. It seems that you can literately eat a koshari on every corner of the street. This dish you can find in the street food stall, but as well in all the restaurants. Some specialised restaurants only serve koshari. It is so popular that they even have invented the 'Cup koshari'. Yes, like a cup noodles, but than koshari.
A koshari dish is actually an assembly of multiple pre-cooked ingredients. So, it might seem like a lot of work when you look at the ingredient and instruction list. But A few of those ingredients you might well have already as leftover in your fridge. In that sense Koshari is a true leftover dish. Which some people believe was the origin of the dish to start with.
A closer look at the different layers;
- Rice and lentils
- pasta (macaroni)
- tomato sauce
- cumin sauce
- crispy onions
Rice & lentils; Some people keep the rice and lentils separated. I have combined them and flavoured it with the leftover oil from the crispy onions, and coriander. You can choose to keep the rice and lentils plain.
Pasta; Traditionally macaroni pasta is used. But many other cooks combine macaroni with vermicelli, which seems to be a big hit too.
Tomato sauce; I made mine nice and spicy with a good amount of cayenne. Of course this can be adjusted to your taste. Some Egyptian cooks don't use onion, while others do. Personal preference I guess.
Cumin sauce; It might not look too appealing but I really love the acidity, cumin, and garlic together. In my opinion, the cumin sauce, also called kamouneyah, makes this dish. So don't skip it 😉
Chickpeas; Used as a garnish.
Crispy fried onion; A very important feature of this dish. Some cooks use a bit of flour to crisp up the onion.
Assemble; It seems that most Egyptian cooks keep the ingredients separate on purpose. So people can decide for themselves how much they want of certain layers. Therefore this dish is often layered. But you can of course mix everything together, or layer it in a horizontal manner.
Even tough I had my doubts about this dish. I really enjoyed it! Though I am not used to eat that many carbs in one dish, it was a real treat 🙂 For me personally the tomato sauce has to be acidic & spicy. I used quiet a lot of the cumin sauce while eating. As I love the high acidic touch of the Koshari. And on top of all this... this dish is traditionally vegan! It was a great experience, and great adventure into the Egyptian cuisine.
And this is exactly why I started 'travels of taste' . A way to use our taste buds to meet other cultures. While we keep our skies free from polluting air planes , we can still learn from, and experience other cultures by tasting each others dishes. Bonne appétit à tout le monde !
To be able to learn about Koshari, and its different styles. I researched the internet for general info and I found three good and interesting recipe sites which I used for the creation of this recipe. Thank you to all of them! The sites are;
For the crispy fried onions;
- ½ large onion sliced
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
For the spicy tomato sauce;
- 1 tin tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
- 1 small onion finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 Tablespoons white vinegar or rice vinegar
For the cumin sauce;
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 Tablespoons cumin powder
- 4 Tablespoons olive oil
- 6 Tablespoons water
- 6 Tablespoons white vinegar or rice vinegar
For the rest;
- 100 grams (½cup) rice
- 140 grams (1 cup) pasta macaroni
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- ½ tin chickpeas
- ½ tin lentils
- If you use dried chickpeas soak them overnight
- If you use dried lentils pre-boil them en dente (not fully cooked)
- Pre-cook the rice, and set aside.
For the fried onions;
- Salt the onion slices, and in a deep pan heat the oil. Fry the onion slices on a medium heat until nicely browned, not burned. This will take approx. 10 minutes. Stir the onion slices occasional. Once nicely browned leave them on a paper towel to dry and crisp up.
- Keep and set aside the leftover oil
For the tomato sauce;
- Sauté the finely chopped onion with a pinch of salt until translucent, approx. 3 - 4 minutes
- Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds, than add the coriander and cayenne pepper stir for a few seconds until fragrant.
- Stir in the tomato sauce and bring to a low simmer.
- Cook for 15 - 20 minutes until the sauce thickens and the flavours are well infused.
- Add the vinegar, and leave on a low heat.
- Check the seasoning, add salt if necessary, Keep aside (keep warm)
For the cumin sauce;
- Sauté the garlic with the cumin powder until fragrant.
- Take off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients.
- Leave it to cool down, once cool pour it a little jar or bottle, so you can shake it before using.
- Boil the Macaroni pasta according instructions.
- Warm up the chickpeas.
- Heat to leftover oil (about 1 or 2 tbsp) from the crispy onions.
- Add the rice together with a teaspoon of coriander powder. Stir well so the rice is nice coated by the oil and the coriander.
- Add the lentils, and leave to warm up for a few minutes.
Assembling the dish;
- Start with a layer of the rice & lentil mixture.
- Top this layer with macaroni pasta.
- Pour over the macaroni pasta a good drizzle (2 tbsp) of cumin sauce, and top with the tomato sauce.
- Garnish the dish with chickpeas and crispy onions.
- Serve extra tomato sauce and cumin sauce on the side.