Food In Siwa Oasis
Food Guide In Siwa Oasis
Most Siwan dishes are easy to prepare and made with fresh ingredients found in the gardens or the market. Lunch is the main meal of the day, and typically includes salad, rice or Macaroni, olives, and a vegetable dish.
Meat is almost always accompanied by a light and flavorful soup made from its broth. Lighter fare is served at dinners, such as an assortment of cheese, tomatoes or cucumbers, molasses, and fried potatoes or eggplant. Foul and felafel or cheese might be served with hot milk or tea at breakfast. Below are some of the more common dishes served at home:
“Kibda” simply means “liver” in Arabic, and is served in other parts of Egypt as well. Chicken liver is sometimes included in soup or Macaroni, but sheep liver is usually served as a main dish. Kibda can be prepared in several ways: sauteed in olive oil with salt; in a spicy tomato sauce; or as shakshouka (see “Shakshouka”).
These are simply mixed vegetables cooked in a tomato base with onion, coriander, salt, hot pepper, and sometimes garlic. Chicken or lamb broth is usually added for flavor. Peas, carrots, zucchini (courgette), potatoes, eggplant or pumpkin are all possible depending on what looks good that day at the market. It is served with rice.
Sheep’s stomach is cut and tied with intestine into little packets, which are boiled to make a broth. Onion, tomato sauce, coriander, and hot green peppers are added to flavor the broth, and the entire dish is served either with rice or Macaroni. Sometimes Lefroosh is cooked in silk or Molokhya.
Siwan Macaroni is similar to spaghetti, but the pasta is cooked in the sauce and coriander and cumin are used instead of oregano or basil. The different spices lend it a refreshingly different flavor.
In Arabic, this leaf is known as “Riql,” but Egyptians are not likely to know what it is. The small leaves of this plant are chopped and cooked in a broth to which ground tomatoes, lentils, and hot pepper are added.
The result is similar to Molokhya, but the flavor is milder and the dish itself is thicker in consistency. Look for Makhmakh when it is in season during the warmer months. Unlike Molokhya, it is only prepared fresh, never from dried leaves.
Known in English as “Jew’s Mallow”, Molokhya is common throughout Egypt but grows quite high in Siwa. It resembles spinach in taste and appearance but is always served as a dip eaten with bread. The finely chopped leaves are cooked in broth; pureed tomato and a mixture of ground garlic, hot pepper and coriander are added for flavor.
This dish is only found in Siwa and is a dip made of lentils cooked with Molokhya and hot green pepper. Siwan olive oil is usually drizzled over the top. A complete Siwan meal would include Reerarin, a plate of olives, and bread.
Minced chicken or sheep liver is sauteed with tomatoes, onions, coriander, parsley, and cilantro, and ladled into a dish. An egg is cracked over the top, and the whole dish is baked in an oven until the egg is cooked.
The result is delicious and can be eaten with bread. For those who don’t eat meat, some of the local restaurants will serve shakshouka made from tuna or vegetables. The best shakshouka, though, is made with sheep liver.
Soup is served with every meal that includes meat, as the meat is always boiled first and its broth used to flavor other dishes. Broth might come from lamb, goat, camel, chicken, liver, or sheep stomach. Unlike other parts of the world where soup might be thick and hearty, Siwan soups are light and never eaten on their own.
Typically, a small amount of pasta known as “Lisan Asfour” (“sparrow’s tongue”) is first browned in a small amount of oil. A small number of ground tomatoes are cooked until thickened and then added to the pasta.
Finely chopped carrots and zucchini are added next, followed by broth, salt, and coriander. Just before the soup is served, a pinch of either mint or dill is sprinkled on top. Soup in Siwa is not eaten with bread – however, it is sometimes eaten over rice.
Silk is similar to spinach and cooked in the same way as Makhmakh. The small leaves of this plant are chopped and cooked in a broth to which ground tomatoes, lentils, and hot pepper are added. Like Makhmakh, it is eaten with bread.
Dishes for Special Occasions
Food is always tied to special occasions in Siwa, and for women, cooking is part of the celebration. Macaroni and chicken are served for most large gatherings, but some other special dishes are still prepared:
Roast duck or chicken wrapped in a crepe called “Roqaq.” Usually, at gatherings, the bird is roasted whole and then presented with the Roqaq to one of the guests, who then carve the bird and distributes the pieces wrapped in Roqaq to the other guests.
Pita bread baked with mashed dates kneaded into the dough. Engeel is served to weddings guests and to the bride on her first morning.
Crushed wheat cooked in broth. Edsheesh is always served on the last day of weddings, bridal showers, and other celebrations: when the Edsheesh arrives, everyone knows it is time to go home.
A large thinly rolled flatbread that is dry as a cracker. Huge batches are made during the Siyaha Festival to be eaten with the special soup, Nesqued.
This simple dessert is served at holidays and handed out in packets as a party favor at weddings and baby showers. There are two kinds, “black” and “white.” “Black” Libsees is made from ground dates, and “white” Libsees is made from ground dry hommos sweetened with sugar. The white Libsees can be mixed with either water or ghee to make a thick paste and is eaten with a spoon.
During the last week of Ramadan, all the women in the family gather together at each other’s house to help make the cookies that will be served on Eid Al Fitr. Many of the cookies prepared are the same as in other parts of Egypt: chocolate and vanilla sugar cookies dipped in jam and coconut; large cookies stuffed with dates (“Kakh”); long twists of sesame flavored cookies.
Menina is only made in Siwa. The dough, made from flour, oil, eggs, and sugar, is pressed flat and then cut into thick squares the size of a child’s hand. Then traditional designs, many of which are also used as motifs in henna, are etched onto the cookie with a knife.
This soup is eaten by all who attend the Siyaha Festival. Emjerdig, a kind of large cracker, is crumbled into a camel broth, and lemon juice sprinkled on top.
A large crepe that is eaten with poultry, as in Ashengood.
A hot cereal served to guests for breakfast during the first three days after the birth of a baby. It is made of homemade Macaroni cooked with fenugreek and served with ghee and sugar.
Dining & Restaurants In Siwa Oasis
Many of the restaurants and cafes in Siwa cater to tourists. Most eateries are open from about 8 am until late. There is a couple of falafel/fuul joints plus an aysh (flatbread) bakery about 50m off the main square past the Kelany Hotel.
Before the internet and mobile phones, there were places like this – a village hub where people gathered nightly to meet, catch up and swap stories.
The longest running restaurant in town remains the best eating option, with a huge menu of breakfast, pasta, traditional dishes, vegetable stews, couscous, roasted chickens and fantastic pizza whipped to your table by efficient service.
On the roof terrace of Shali Lodge, this cafe-restaurant is a great place to hang out while enjoying a mint tea or a cold drink and conversation with the affable manager, Mohammed. Mains include some unique Siwan specialties, like baked lentils, and eggplant with pomegranate sauce. The chicken with olive sauce and curry are uniquely delicious.
On the roof of the hotel of the same name, this might just be the most romantic dining spot in the oases. Moodily lit in the evenings, it’s practically attached to the fortress of Shali and has sweeping views over all of Siwa. This is the place to try camel meat stew or to have a whole goat roasted for you and your friends (with 24-hour notice).
Abo Ayman Restaurant
Roasted on a hand-turned spit over coals in an old oil drum, the chickens at Abo Ayman are the juiciest in Siwa. They’re well seasoned and served with salad, tahini, and bread. You can sit inside at low tables, but we like the tables outside with street views.
A popular hang-out in a palm grove opposite Shali Lodge, Nour al-Waha has shady tables and plenty of tea and games on hand for those who just want to while away the day in the shade.
The food is a mixture of Egyptian and Western and is generally fresh and good. There are several other cozy palm-garden restaurants around Siwa serving the usual combination of Egyptian and Western fare.
Many of the cafes around town are no-name places where Siwan men gather to watch TV and chat, but no alcohol is served. A couple of the most enjoyable cafes are found next to Cleopatra’s Bath.
The newest, hippest cafe/restaurant in Siwa sits on a shaded rooftop overlooking the central square. Choose a regular table with chairs or lounge on cushions while browsing an extensive
list of coffees, teas, and juices, plus a full food menu. Throw in the wi-fi and this place seems like a sure hit.
We can’t argue with Campione’s slogan: ‘life is too short for bad coffee’. This cool streetside cafe serves imported Italian coffee made with an imported espresso machine and prepared any way you like it. The only drag is the growing number of motorcycles roaring past in the evening.
Taghaghien Touristic Island
If you’re desperate for a beer, this small island 12 km northwest of Siwa Town and connected by a causeway is one of the few places selling the amber nectar.
There is some humble accommodation and a restaurant here, but its many shaded tables and chairs, paddle boat rentals and sweet sunset vistas make it better for a day trip or picnic. You’ll need your own transport to get here. It’s in the direction of Sidi Jaafar, northwest of town.
Right in town, Zeytouna and Abdu Coffeeshop face each other at opposite ends of the square and fill up with locals smoking sheesha, downing tea and slapping backgammon pieces with triumphant vigor.
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