Koshari is bonkers, a dish that makes no sense whatsoever until you actually eat it. It's an absolute carb-fest, a mix of pasta, rice and lentils, topped with spiced tomato ragu, garlic vinegar, chickpeas and crisp fried onions. Stir the whole thing together and you have crunchy, tangy, umami deliciousness. Koshari is the sort of thing only sumo wrestlers should be eating, rather than everyday Egyptians. But, it works.
Though koshari is considered the national dish of Egypt, its origins lie far away in India. There, "khichri" – a mix of rice and lentils – was a staple food with variations across the country, and was brought to Egypt when Indians accompanied British soldiers in the early 20th century. The addition of pasta is thought to be owed to Italian migrants who lived in Egypt at the time, while the Baharat spice blend, the chickpeas, onions, paprika and vinegar and/or lemon juice are pure Egyptian in influence.
Koshari is available on almost every street corner and in every budget-friendly restaurant across Egypt. In Cairo, try perhaps the most famous koshari in town at Abou Tarek (40 Sharia Champollion, Cairo – no website).
Sydneysiders, fill your face with carby goodness by ordering the koshari at Cairo Takeaway in Newtown (cairotakeaway.com), or check out Taste of Egypt in Bankstown (facebook.com/tasteofegyptsydney). In Melbourne, head to Leyalina in Carlton (leyalina.com.au) for your koshari fix.
ONE MORE THING
In both India and Pakistan, khichri (or khichdi) is still very popular, so if you want to taste the origins of Egypt's treasured koshari, look for this lentil-and-rice combo next time you're eating at a sub-continental restaurant.