If you ever travel to Egypt, you will almost certainly eat a food called koushary at some point during your stay. This beloved dish is frequently eaten throughout the country and many even consider it Egypt’s national dish.
Koushary, also spelled koshari or kushari (Arabic transliterations are notoriously fickle!) is a layered dish consisting of rice, macaroni, and black lentils. This base is then topped with crispy fried onions and a vinegary tomato sauce. Often, cooked chickpeas are added on top of the dish, and many diners like to sprinkle garlic juice, garlic vinegar, or hot sauce over the meal.
While koushary is a very traditional Egyptian dish, it only joined the nation’s cuisine in the mid-19th century and grew in popularity in the second half of the 20th century. It is likely a mix of Italian and Indian food influences. At first, it was only a street food, served in poor areas off the backs of donkey-pulled food carts, but now hungry customers can buy it from restaurants everywhere.
Koushary is loaded with carbs and protein, making it a favorite dish of marathon runners and laborers. All the ingredients are cheap and easy to get, so it is very inexpensive to buy a serving from a restaurant or street vendor. Places that make koushary have each element of the dish already cooked and can assemble a plate of this food in seconds. The speed, cost, and flavor all combine to make this dish immensely popular. Since it includes no meat, koushary is safe for vegetarians to eat, and if only vegetable oils are used in its preparation, it is also a vegan dish.
Maybe you have no plans to travel to Egypt but still want to try this delicious dish. Fortunately, it is easy to make at home and the ingredients are common. The main annoyance about making koushary is that it uses quite a few different pans. To make it, cook rice, pasta, and lentils in separate pots; heat some tomato sauce seasoned with garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper; and fry some thinly sliced onions until brown and crispy. Layer the ingredients on the plate to serve, starting with the rice, then the pasta, and finally the lentils. Pour a bit of the tomato sauce over the lentils and then top it all off with the fried onions.
Whether traveling to Egypt in person or cooking in your kitchen, don’t miss out on this classic Egyptian food!