‘Trip’ to the streets of Cairo via Kochi
Egyptian folk music played by men wearing white jellabiya welcomes one to the ‘Streets of Cairo’ food festival at Marriott’s ‘Kochi Kitchen’ restaurant.
Egyptian folk music played by men wearing white jellabiya welcomes one to the ‘Streets of Cairo’ food festival at Marriott’s ‘Kochi Kitchen’ restaurant. The waiters, too, are dressed in traditional attire and hats. A perfect setting for delicious slices of Egyptian culture. Executive chef Tanuj Bahuguna, who guides us in, sounds excited. “It has been two years since we did an international fest like this,” he says. “And this one is really unique.”
Chefs Mohamed Mounir Yousef Salama and Mohamed Atta Shoukry Hussein are busy cooking up a storm in the kitchen. The duo from the Nile Ritz- Carlton, Cairo say they have brought the “authentic flavours of Egypt, all the way from Cairo”.
Stacks of Cairo’s famed shami bread can be seen on the buffet counter. Seeing me check it out, Atta welcomes me straight to the kitchen. A quick culinary class follows. The dough is topped with sesame seeds and placed in a 241-degree oven. It gets puffed up and turns golden brown.
Next, an impressive Mediterranean platter is lined up on the counter. The smell of freshly ground spices hits one’s foodie weak spots bang on target. “Egyptian food has flavours similar to the Indian cuisine,” says Atta. “Especially the spices; we use lesser quantity. And the items are mostly grilled or cooked over a fire.”
I start off the adventure with a soup named ‘Bird Tongue’, quite warily. “It is a nourishing chicken broth with orzo pasta, which looks similar to the tongue of a bird,” explains Mounir. “The chicken is boiled with a stock of vegetables including onion and carrot.”
The scrumptious cold mezze can be paired with shami bread and hummus made of crushed fava beans. Dips include one made of cracked wheat and yoghurt, Baba Ghanoush- a Levantine appetizer made of roasted eggplant, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and other seasonings. Topped with paprika and sumak, the cold mezze spread across the table was a treat, indeed.
Potato Tagine, meanwhile, is so flavoursome that it reminds one of Indian chaat. Addition of fried bread (pita chips) in dishes, including rice and salads, is amusing, nice. It gives the dishes a unique texture.
The main course consists of two delicacies, specially picked by the chefs. First is Fattah rice -- long basmati rice mixed with tender pieces of lamb shanks, and pita chips. “One should scoop in the rice with the lamb piece, pita chips and a bit of freshly made tomato sauce,” Atta advises. “Though we have all kinds of meat, lamb is preferred the most.”
Relishing the crunchy, rich dish is like boarding a chartered aircraft to Cairo. Just amazing.
Then comes Chicken Majboos. Slow-cooked rice is packed with spices, and served with sauteed boiled chicken and caramelised onion. The flight lands at the destination with this one.
To ease off the jet lag, the dessert section has a crisp, wafer-like Baklava with vanilla and mango ice cream. Impressed with the cold treat, a guest at the restaurant knocks on the kitchen door to appreciate the chefs. Understandable.
A perfect way to end the journey would be a cup of Arabic coffee. For that final punch, you see.
Streets of Cairo will be on till August 28 at Kochi Marriott.