My Trip to Cairo, Egypt & An Egyptian Spiced Dukkah Eggplant Fries

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by Sara on March 27, 2012

As I stand in front of the Pyramids of Giza just outside of Cairo, I cannot help but think about how was this marvel was built and what kind of strong and brave people constructed such a beautiful masterpiece.

Ancient Egyptians believed that when the pharaoh died, he became Osiris, king of the dead. The new pharaoh became Horus, god of the heavens and protector of the sun god. This cycle was symbolized by the rising and setting of the sun.

Contrary to some popular depictions, the pyramid builders were not slaves or foreigners. Excavated skeletons show that they were Egyptians who lived in villages developed and overseen by the pharaoh’s supervisors. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 workers built the Pyramids at Giza over 80 years.

To shelter and safeguard the part of a pharaoh’s soul that remained with his corpse, Egyptians built massive tombs—but not always pyramids. Before the pyramids, tombs were carved into bedrock and topped by flat-roofed structures called mastabas. Mounds of dirt, in turn, sometimes topped the structures.

The pyramid shape of later tombs could have come from these mounds. More likely, Egyptian pyramids were modeled on a sacred, pointed stone called the benben. The benben symbolized the rays of the sun; ancient texts claimed that pharaohs reached the heavens via sunbeams.Source:natgeographic.com

Mr.Camel looks baffled & not amused as this crazy woman wearing a funny hat sits on his back.

So what is a visit to the city of Cairo without walking along the fascinating souk of Khan El-Khalili. This is surely on the top 5 list to see in Cairo.

This souq was built in 1382. When the Sultan Barquq started his madrassa in Bayn el-Qasrayn, markets were rebuilt, and Khan el-Khalili was established. It was also known Turkish bazaar during the Ottoman Empire, ironically there is also an Egyptian Bazaar in Istanbul near the Eminonu ferry port and the Sultan Valide mosque.

Souk has small quaint shops where you will see friendly faces who will invite you into their shops and offer you mint tea while you gaze at the beautiful handmade handicrafts and wonder what will fit in your suitcase. Don’t worry even if something does not fit into your suitcase, the merchants at the Khan-El-Khalili will be happy to ship the item to you!

 

On the streets of Cairo, food carts  serve up their delectable delights  to hungry customers. In days gone by people would bring their own container, pots or plates to fill up with a steaming serve of boiled and seasoned fava beans called Ful Medames, or line up behind the Kushari cart for a delicious mix of rice, lentils and noodles served with fragrant tomato sauce and fried onions.

Fresh fruit is a healthy and light final touch to most meals, with Arabic coffee, black tea and the delicious refreshing red tea called karkade made with dried hibiscus flowers served separately and often with delicious sweets. Some popular Egyptian sweets are the coconut based semolina cake called basbousa & baklava.

Dukkah is an Egyptian dry mix of roasted nuts, seeds and spices blended finely together. Traditionally dukkah is eaten by dipping fresh Egyptian bread first into olive oil and then into the nut mixture but it also serves as a versatile seasoning in Egyptian cooking.

The word is derived from the Arabic for “to pound” since the mixture of spices and nuts are pounded together after being dry roasted to a texture that is neither powdered nor paste-like. The actual composition of the spice mix can vary from family to family, vendor to vendor though there are common ingredients, such as sesame, cumin & coriander salt and pepper.

I once saw a recipe in Donna Hay magazine for sumac eggplant fries which I thought sounded so good, I also happen to love eggplant in any shape or form. I decided to season mine with Egyptian dukkah, fresh lemon juice, & extra virgin olive oil. Ofcourse I made the Dukkah at home by first dry pan toasting the spices and pine nuts and then coarsely ground them in a coffee grinder (which I solely use for spices). You can deep fry or roast the eggplant fries in the oven, I decided to roast them in the oven on a high temp of 400 degrees.

 

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Jahnavi March 27, 2012 at 5:47 am

Love the pictures from your travel…especially the intricately designed lanterns. Very beautiful. Also how was the camel ride?

I’ve had potato, sweet potato and even green bean fries. But, I’ve never had eggplant fries…something worth trying.

Rosa March 27, 2012 at 7:03 am

A lovely trip! Thanks for sharing your impressions and pictures with us.

I love dikkah! Those fries must taste wonderful.

Cheers,

Rosa

Lana March 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm

I love reading about traveling – usually it’s my sister that taunts me with her exotic stories:) I have never made dukkah , but it has been on my list for a while now. I have everything on hand except for pine nuts (I am thinking of swapping walnuts).
I have two coffee grinders, and one of them is for spices only:)
And your photo riding Mr.Camel is lovely! I guess it was not that hot in Egypt!

Sara Hafiz March 27, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Thank you guys…Dukkah is very easy to make at home like zaa’tar!

s March 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm

Sara, i love how you have depicted Egypt- the country and its people- in such a beautiful light in vibrant colours- a far cry from the one-dimensional view we get from the media. i envy you for going there. and like you, i am an aubergine nut- when i come over, you have to make these for me :) x s

foodwanderings March 27, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Such a great post. My in laws visited Egypt but I never did, We just crossed the border for a weekend in Taba. Love this spice mix. Seems to go well with eggplant fries.:) My mom makes Indian style eggplant fries, I did too until I decided to switch to oven baked instead but nothing beats fried! :)

Sukaina March 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm

Oh this post brought back some great memories of my trip to Egypt. Although I must admit, I didn’t try any local foods- our guide dissuaded us from doing so!!!

Amy K. March 27, 2012 at 7:49 pm

First time here. Great post and I LOVE your photos.

The recipe also sounds very easy to make! I love eggplant so will give this a try…

Sara Hafiz March 27, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Thank you for visiting Shayma, Shulie, Sukaina & Amy!

Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. March 28, 2012 at 12:22 am

wow amazing! These look SO good. I once tried to my eggplant fries. I love your version

beti March 28, 2012 at 2:15 am

You must have had a great time in there! the fries sound and look delicious, it is a recipe that I must try

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com March 28, 2012 at 3:55 am

I hope to visit Egypt someday — you’ve made it look too tempting :)

Maureen @ Orgasmic Chef March 28, 2012 at 9:08 am

That is an adventure I have been dreaming about for a long time. I’m envious. :) I like the woman in the funny hat photo — certainly a keeper.

We eat a lot of dukkah in this house. We dip our bread in olive oil with balsamic vinegar and then into dukkah — delicious but your fries look fantastic!

Sarah at Buttered-Up March 28, 2012 at 11:54 am

I really enjoyed this post. I could dive into your plate of eggplant right now. Thank you for sharing the Egypt that I love. People have been scared to come and our tourism has really suffered.

Sara Hafiz March 28, 2012 at 12:14 pm

Thanks guys..Egypt is a wonderful place to visit and the people are as freindly!

Sanjeeta KK March 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm

You look lovely with those boots and cap, Sara! My hubby worked in Egypt for a years, and could not stop praising about the same till date..would love to visit it someday.

rebecca March 29, 2012 at 2:53 am

fun post and love this spice blend must try and use it

Neha March 29, 2012 at 3:31 am

Great post. Love Dukkah…haven’t made any in ages. Totally inspired to now. :) One question: I’ve tried to make eggplant crispy before by frying, but it hasn’t worked for me. Also never goes this way when I roast them on a high temp with other veg. Am I missing something? Do you have any tips? TIA :)

Sara Hafiz March 29, 2012 at 5:01 am

Neha, you are right..it is difficult to get that crispy texture with eggplant, so I just settle for medium crispy. Thanks for visiting!

Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen March 29, 2012 at 9:22 am

Oh my gosh I love that shot of you on the camel! Now that’s something I want to do at least once in my life.

Faith March 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm

What an amazing adventure, Sara! Your photos are truly stunning…and I love that one of you on the camel! :)

The eggplant fries look delish!

Kankana March 30, 2012 at 5:35 am

I recently came across the spice mix Dukkah and fell in love with it! Now I am trying out so many different recipe with dukkah. And is that you on that camel ?? Pretty neat :) I would be so scared to ride a camel!

Sumayya Jamil April 1, 2012 at 8:40 pm

How absolutely stunning, the pictures, the story and the recipe. I adore aubergines so this is on my list of this weekly menu! xxx

Nadia April 2, 2012 at 10:29 am

I still remember Egypt from my chuldhood visit – loved it.

Sign me up for some eggplant fries now, I’m soooo sick of Thai food! ;)

Baker Street April 3, 2012 at 7:21 am

I went to cairo for my honeymoon and absolutely loved it. I would actually love to go back again some day. Its culturally rich, the food is just too good and the people are so warm and welcoming.

The eggplant fries look delish Sara! :)

Namitha April 4, 2012 at 4:04 pm

Pretty pictures from the land of pyramids :) I hope I will make it there one day ! Lovely recipes too. I’m sure I could convince my hubby to eat eggplants finally :)

Russell at Chasing Delicious April 4, 2012 at 8:44 pm

What a cool trip! That must have been soo fun! And scrumptious recipe. I’ve never tried eggplant fries before. Yum.

Amy @ Poor Girl Gourmet April 6, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Sara! What a fabulous trip! Your photos are stunning, and the eggplant fries sound (and look!) so amazing. It was so nice to meet you at IACP! I only regret that we didn’t have more time to chat!

Soma April 10, 2012 at 1:41 am

I always travel the world with you. Last year my dad was in Egypt and he had so much to tell!! LOL at the camel :D I heart eggplants too and make it with sumac quite often. I have never made dukkah at home. Saving your recipe for when I make it.

Ambika April 12, 2012 at 3:41 am

Wow, never thought of eggplant fries!! These look amazing Sara, I would love to try this! The pictures of your trip are beautiful, I have always wanted to visit Egypt and see the pyramids!!

Jamie April 17, 2012 at 11:33 am

Aren’t you so adorable! And lucky you your trip to this amazing country! And I actually have a can of dukkah I bought in South Africa (of all places) and those eggplant fries are not only astonishing but look too good!

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