Koshari is the national dish of Egypt. It is served in literally every Egyptian restaurant, every Egyptian home and every Egyptian street corner. This beloved and highly popular dish is an unusual combination of lentils, macaroni noodles and rice with a spicy tomato sauce. The dish uses a special Middle Eatern spice mix, garbanzo beans and fried onions.
Heba Fatteen Bizzari explains, “As the Koshari man scoops, he knocks his metal spoon against the sides of the bowls, making the Koshari symphony that you won’t hear elsewhere. When the Koshari man prepares an order of more than four the restaurant fills with sound as if it was a rehearsal for a concert. The restaurants of Koshari are very noisy. One sits to eat while the Koshari man practices his drums in your ears” (www.touregypt.net).
Though it is Egypt’s national dish, it isn’t actually Egyptian in origin. Neither rice nor macaroni are indigenous to Egypt. It is believed that Koshari originated in India and dates back to the time of British Colonization. The name “Koshari” is actually from the Hindu “khichri”, which refers to a dish of lentils and rice. When the British arrived in Egypt in the late 1800’s they brought this dish with them – it was inexpensive and filling. It didn’t take long before the dish was enthusiastically embraced by the Egyptian people. It came into its present form sometime in the mid-19th century when Egypt was a multi-cultural country in the middle of an economic boom.
The crowning aspect of this dish is the flavor-packed, spicy tomato sauce. It’s made with a special spice blend called Baharat (Arabic for “spice”), an all-purpose spice blend commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Just a pinch adds depth and flavor to sauces, soups, stews and meat.
Koshari is to Egypt what a Ratatouille is to France. Today, once can find vegan versions of the dish too, though the dish uses mostly vegan ingredients generally too.