Monday, December 10, 2007

Abou El Seed

45 Road 7
Tel: 2380 50 50

Had freinds visting and they wanted to try out authentic Egyptian cuisine in an authentic Egyptian environment. Since it was their last day in town, decided to take them to Abu el Sid. It's Egyptian cuisine, has an Arabian Nights ambience and was close home!

Luckily I had booked, cos at 10 o'clock the place was buzzing with life. The outside was empty, given that winter had set in, but there were still some intrepid locals, who warmed their hearts and bodies with the ubiquitous shisha while the less adventerous souls like us preferred to troop inside.

When you walk in, its like walking into the sets on 101 Arabian Nights. The walls are done in stucco brown and painted in ochre, rust and dull red. The place is lit up with dull lighting and candles which cast their shadows on the walls making it look even more exotic. This wisps of mul curtains gently fly in the wind. The furniture is very period, rich gold framed sofas and chairs with equally rich (albiet old, worn and a tad dirty), red, brown and gold upholstry. Painted table with inlaid work. Ah, we loved the ambience!!

The food was very authentically Egyptian, the English speaking maitre de assured us. Starters? Of course!. We ordered a Mezze platter with babaghounoush, tahini and a cheese dip, some Kobeba (LE 25 for 4-5 peices) and Falafel (LE 13). The balady bread with the meze was fresh, warm and delicious. Kobeba is a local, exotic, fried meat ball made from cracked wheat and lamb and served with eggplants and sesame paste salad dip. Everyone loved it!

The restaurant serves Mouakhiya or the Egyptian National Dish (or so says the menu) which is essentially a chicken dish with pureed / cooked molakiya along with rice. At LE 48, the portion size is quite large, and, can comfortably feed two after you've been through your starters.

The Fettah (LE 58), which is essentially an Egyptian risotto with meat, yoghurt and tomato sauce, is also very nice. Again, the portion size is good for two, if you've snacked ok.

The Shrimp Tagine (LE60) is fine, not exceptional while the Circasian Chicken in Walnut Sauce (LE 48) is nice.

The vegetarians unfortunately, would have to make do with the Koshary, which by the way, isn't much to write home about, and the lentil soup. The soup was hot, thick and tasty, just what the doctor ordered on a cold winter night!

We had to round off the evening with, but of course, an Om Aly and some shisha! A lovely evening spent with decent food, good friends, interesting conversation, great ambience and a lovely memory of some good times spent in Cairo.

P.S. Just read an interesting history to Abu el Seed... so here goes..

An Egyptian native of Cairo during the Fatimid period, Abou El-Sid cooked happily for friends and neighbours. Many a married man would desert his wife to come spend the evening savouring his irresistible edibles. He knew that the surest way to a man's heart is through his stomach. The women of his neighbourhood cursed him for his dexterity in the kitchen, and it appears that their incessant cussing bore frightful fruit.

A merciless Fatimid sultan whose name will not be recalled now, had heard about Abou El-Sid's talents. He disguised himself as a wandering merchant and called on Abou El-Sid's tavern. The following evening, the sultan masqueraded as a poor man and revisited Abou El-Sid's humble eatery. The sultan was intrigued by the delectable creations of Abou El-Sid. He summoned the cook to his palace and invited him to take charge of the palace cuisine, a dubious honour Abou El-Sid could hardly afford to decline.

Lo and behold, Abou El-Sid grew tired of the endless carousals and binges of the sultan and his greedy courtiers. He longed for the friendliness and sincerity of his humble neighbours. He repeatedly pleaded with the sultan to let him return to his humble abode. The sultan flatly refused and in exasperation banished the frustrated cook to the palace kitchen. Abou El-Sid complained ever more bitterly. By that time, the harem had learnt something of the secrets of Abou El-Sid's culinary talents, so they dispensed with him completely, and he spent the rest of his life in the dungeon. To while away time, Abou El-Sid jotted down recipes of his exceptional cuisine. And those recipes passed down generations are what is served at Abu el Seed...

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