Food Culture and Tradition

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Egyptian foods glossary and foods terms


Asha: the evening meal.

Bamieh Bilahmeh: a stew of browned cubed lamb, garlic, and tomato sauce, completed with the addition of okra near the end of cooking time. Served with rice.

Bettai or Bettawa: classic Arab bread made of whole-wheat flour and leavening and baked in a large, flat fourteen-inch round. Eaten by breaking off pieces, and used to scoop up other foods. It is the mainstay of the Egyptian diet.

Bissara: lima bean and beef stew flavored with coriander and garlic. The cooked beans are purled and mounded on a platter with the meat pieces arranged on top. Served with rice.

Boughasha: crisp pastry rolls filled with nuts and raisins.

Bourri: a most popular fish – mullet. When salted it is called Fessikh.

Couscous: Middle Eastern favorite prepared by dribbling water over !lour and rubbing to form small granules. These are dried then steamed in a perforated pot over boiling water, or stew, or soup. Gentle stir-ring from time to time prevents lumps. In Egypt the Jellaheen make this with small amounts of meat and vegetable sauce. Mostly it is prepared as a dessert sweet, sprinkled with Samna, peanuts, currants, and sugar.

Dfina: beef stew flavored with garlic and onions and simmered with sorrel and white pea leaves (spring greens).

Erfah: dessert coffee brewed in the usual way but lightly flavored with cinnamon as well as sugar.


Erkesous: a non-alcoholic meal beverage similar to beer but flavored with anise.

Esh es Saraya: classic festive dessert of bread crumbs cooked in heavy syrup and flavored with honey and butter. When thickened, it is cooled in a thin layer on a plate, cut into wedges, and served with whipped cream.

Farawla: a syrup of strawberries and sugar served in a glass with ice water or mixed with other juices to make a beverage.

Farik or Fireek: similar to bulgur (boiled, dried, and cracked wholewheat), but prepared from green wheat. Often used with seasonings as a stuffing.

Fenugreek: sweet aromatic powder or seeds used in large amounts to flavor bread and certain dishes.

Fessikh: salted mullet.

Ful, Fool, or Ful Medamis: dried beans boiled and served with oil. Classic dish especially for breakfast or lunch.

Ful Nabit: dried beans are covered with water and allowed to sprout, then cooked. A variation of Ful.

Ful Sudani: peanuts

Halawah: confection of finely ground sesame seeds and nuts molded to a rich delicious paste and sold by the piece.

Kishk: dried paste made of soured milk, flour, and various seasonings (usually hot and spicy). Commonly mixed with water and cooked as a part of the fellaheen’s evening meal.

Kotelat: Egyptian-style meatballs made from ground beef and seasonings and cooked in water, oil, and saffron, served with egg-lemon sauce. Bread or rice usually accompany.

Maamoul: cone-shaped confection made from sweetened farina (cream of wheat), filled with nuts and perfumed with rose or orange water.

Meggadara: brown lentils and onions cooked with rice and served with yogurt and crunchy fried onions.

Millokhia or Moulighia: similar in appearance to spinach, a leafy green that yields a thick viscous liquid when cooked and used especially to prepare a classic soup of the same name, based on a stock of chicken or rabbit.

Mish: skim milk cheese, seasoned and allowed to ripen in earthenware jars for a year. The strong pun-gent taste is popular with all social classes and a small plate of sliced mish is a part of many meals.

Red Lentil Soup: a classic soup with the usual garlic and onion, and with coriander and cumin. Prepared without meat. Interestingly, red lentils cook up to a golden-yellow color.

Ruzz Dumyat: cooked minced giblets, butter, and pine nuts cooked with rice in a broth. The hot, fluffy, rich-flavored mixture is served with meat or other vegetables.

Samna: clarified butter.

Saniet Batatis: a baked casserole of meat and vegetables with the meat in the center and the vegetables arranged all around, seasoned with onions, garlic, and tomato juice.

Sayadia: a classic fish dish prepared by browning a blend of curry seasonings in oil then pouring over fillets or whole fish in a pan. Small amounts of water are added and the fish is cooked until tender and until the water boils away. The fish is served chilled with a garnish of fresh parsley and lemon wedges.

Shourba: rich stock meat soup finished with tangy egg-lemon sauce.

Simsim: sesame seeds.

Soubya: a mealtime beverage made from fermented rice.

Tahini: sesame seed oil used for cooking and flavoring and also for lighting and lubrication.

Tambrahandi: drink of date palm juice sometimes served with meals.

Tamiya: cooked mashed beans formed into small cakes and deep-fried then served as they are or, more usually, with spicy condiments.

Tanaka: Arabic name for the long-handled, narrow-necked, wide-bottom coffeepot used in Greece and Turkey where it is called an ibrik. Pulverized coffee, sugar, and water are added, allowed to bubble and boil up the desired number of times then poured ceremoniously into tiny demitasse cups. The exact amount of sugar, water, and coffee (as well as the type) and the number of times it is allowed to foam up produces an incredible number of variations. Sometimes spices are added.


Torley: casserole of ground meats and sliced vegetables arranged in layers. Flavorings and seasonings are tomato juice, onions, and salt and pepper.

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