Monday, March 08, 2010

Eating from Street Carts in Egypt

Someone who has just come into Egypt, asked if eating from the streetside foodcarts in Egypt was something that could be done without fear of reprisal from his digestive system.

Personally, I've liked most of what I tried from the food carts, except the sweet corn cobs. The corn cobs in Egypt taste terrible to me. An American friend even went so far as to say that what is sold on the street as corn on the cob, would only be used as cattle feed in the USA. There are better versions of corn available in Egypt, but it is mostly found in the frozen section of the supermarket, rather than on the street.

The only thing I would advise  a newcomer is : "don't try to eat off a street cart, if you have just arrived in Egypt. Give your digestive system a little time to adjust to change in water, the new surroundings, the new microbes and germs in the atmosphere etc. After that just use your common sense. Most food carts are as hygenic as you can expect in a country like Egypt (or India, where I am from), but if you are particularly put off by the surroundings or hygiene of a particular push cart, then move on. If you see flies hovering around the food, then avoid it completely."

I would also personally avoid anything that is uncovered or not wrapped and being sold at a very dusty or polluted part of the road. Unless it was something that could be washed before eating.

The roasted sweet potatoes are lovely. The white beans (more common in Alexandria) are lovely with a squeeze of lemon (although I  often take them home to add a good sprinkle of chilli powder or chaat masala, to further enjoy the flavor). There are many delicious varieties of breads and biscuits sold on carts. The wafers that are sold near the citadel in Alexandria with fillings of sesame seeds, or groundnuts are also very good.

Street food in Egypt is not half as scary for me as street food in South East Asia. At least here, I know what I was getting myself into when I ask for something. :)

Further Reading:
An Article I wrote shortly after arriving, comparing Street food in Egypt vs India
Where to eat Street Food - An Article from Egypt Today
If you want corn cobs

Bon Appetit


Ragby said...

I had some falafel bought on the street in Kharga Oasis and it was one of the best things I've ever had! The vendor had just fried it, put it into a newspaper wrapper and served it up. Hot, simple and delicious....

Nate said...

Several chef friends recommended eating yogurt upon arrival in a foreign country to help your stomach adjust to the new bacteria.

Also, regarding the corn cobs, I never tried them in Egypt, and was only inclined to do so when they were NOT cooked straight in the coals. Eating the ash, etc. is not healthy. If they were cooked on a rack over the flame, then I was more inclined (this was rare, and I never did indulge).

Those sweet potatoes were SO GOOD.

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani said...

The corn is definitely cow corn, as we used to call it in Canada, but if it is roasted very soon after picking it can be very nice albeit rather chewy. The one warning I give people is to beware of fried foods from street carts as the only time I've ever had the flaming screamers were after eating some ta'ameya from a cart in Alexandria. I suspect that it might be due to the unfamiliar or old oil used for frying. I have a similar reaction to KFC...LOL.

Congrats on the recognition. You deserve it.

Kim said...

Nate, the yoghurt is a great idea.

Maryanne, thank you for the sweet compliment.

where food is concerned, I think its a lot about seeing what your own stomach can take.

I know I started eating street food in Cairo within a day or two of landing, but then my system was used to the street food in India.

When I came back to India after living in the US, it took me a good couple of weeks, before I could start eating street food in India again.

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