Being a vegetarian is easy in Egypt. Meat is expensive and so you will find thousands of alternatives. You should be aware of th fact that being a vegetarian is no real option in Egypt. People will not really understand that yozu don´t WANT to eat meat. AND: Chicken and fish are no meat, so when you ask for a meal without meat, there is always the danger you get it with chicken or fish! Oh and by the way, chips are vegetables…
You are always on the safe side when you order koshary (noodles, rice, chickpeas, lentils, onions, tomatoe sauce), tamaya (better known as falafel), molokhyia (a green, slimy soup) or ful (beans).
You can get those dishes literally EVERYWHERE in Cairo along with “salads” like salatat baladi (cucumber, tomatoes, green salad, onions), fattush (green salad, tomatoes, mint, fried bread), cheese cream and so on. Of course some places are better than others even when it comes to easy dishes like falafel.
Tamaya for example is served in different forms. Some love small and crispy falafel, some the soft and small balls other prefer the big, thin and VERY crispy version – like me. Egyptian friends have VERY different opinions where to get the best tamaya in town. El Azaz (Talat Haarb) is a very good adress. Famous and cheap is Felfela – but in my opinion not the best. As long as the tamaya is hot it is quiet good but most of the time it is already cold and bit dry.
Akher Saa (Talat Haarb and Orabi Square) serves big and crispy tamaya with lots of sesame.
Especially tamaya can be very good when you buy it in small (and dirty) street restaurants….
Koshary, in a way the national dish of Egypt, is served EVERYWHERE, from carts, in street-kitchens and of course in restaurants. In general it is the the cheapest full meal you can get but when you choose a well-known place koshery can cost up to 20 LE.
Famous is tom & basl, which you find at lots of spots in Cairo. The most famous shop for sure is Abu Tarek at Sharia Champollion. They only serve koshary in three sizes Be careful- the hot sauce (shatta) is REALLY HOT.
Lots of Egyptians love Tahrir Koshery. My favourite shop has no name. You find it at the back of Sultan Hassan Mosque. The koshery is very good, the sauces spicy and the atmosphere VERY Egyptian. (When you are not a vegetarian try their macaruna bil lahma, pasta with minced meat…it´s fantastic!!).
A famous restaurant chain is Gad but their tamaya is not very good – on the other hand the ful is fantastic – as is the liver (but of course NOT for our vegetarian friends!!)
More tips will come soon!