The Foods eaten by the people of Egypt

The culinary traditions of Egypt have a rich and complex history, shaped by its geography, social changes, and various cultural influences over millennia. Over the past 500 years, the diet has been influenced by native traditions, Ottoman rule, European colonial powers, and contemporary global trends.

Staples:

  • Bread: Known as "Aish," it's a staple in every meal. Varieties include baladi, a kind of pita bread, and fino, similar to a French baguette.
  • Rice: Often served as a side dish or part of main dishes like "kushari."
  • Corn: Consumed as corn-on-the-cob, or ground into flour for bread and pastries.

Proteins:

  • Fava Beans: Used in dishes like "ful medames," a staple breakfast food.
  • Lamb and Mutton: Used in stews, grills, and specialty dishes for festive occasions.
  • Chicken: Commonly grilled or used in stews and soups.
  • Fish: Particularly consumed in coastal areas and during religious fasting periods when meat is not eaten.

Vegetables:

  • Lentils: Used in soups and as a side dish.
  • Okra, Eggplant, and Cabbage: Featured in stews and casseroles.
  • Onions, Garlic, and Leeks: Widely used for flavoring.

Fruits:

  • Dates: Consumed fresh or dried, often used in desserts.
  • Citrus Fruits: Like oranges and lemons, are common.
  • Fig and Olives: Consumed in various forms.

Spices and Condiments:

  • Cumin, Coriander, and Cardamom: Common spices.
  • Garlic and Onion: Used in many dishes for flavoring.
  • Tahini and Hummus: Popular spreads and dips.

Beverages:

  • Tea: The most popular drink, often flavored with fresh mint or sage.
  • Coffee: Turkish-style coffee is traditional, but various styles are now popular.
  • Jallab and Qamar al-Din: Traditional drinks often consumed during Ramadan.

Traditional Dishes:

  • Kushari: A dish made with rice, lentils, and pasta, topped with a spicy tomato sauce and fried onions.
  • Molokhia: A green leafy vegetable, cooked into a sort of soup or stew, traditionally with chicken or rabbit.
  • Hawawshi: Egyptian-style meat pie.
  • Shawarma: A dish that has clear Levantine and Ottoman influences, it's made of marinated meat stacked on a vertical rotisserie.

Historical Influences:

  • Ancient Egyptian Traditions: Many of the grains and vegetables like emmer wheat and onions have ancient origins.
  • Islamic Influence: Fasting during Ramadan and the halal dietary laws have influenced cuisine.
  • Ottoman Rule: Introduced various stuffed vegetables ("mahshi") and sweet pastries like baklava.
  • European Influences: French and Italian cuisines have left a mark, especially in desserts like pastries and gelato.

Modern Influences:

  • Globalization: Fast food and international cuisines are increasingly popular, especially in urban areas.

The last 500 years have seen Egypt's diet enriched and diversified by its own long history and external influences, making it a fascinating blend of the traditional and the modern.

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