The Egyptian port city of Alexandria invokes up images of ancient wonders, battles and the world-conquering ruler Alexander the Great, but what does it offer in terms of food?
Ancient Egyptian food majorly consisted of Bread, Poultry products, Dairy products, Fish, and Vegetables. While the flourished drank Wine, poor people used to celebrate with Beer.
“Ancient” is quite a long span in the case of Egypt. Cleopatra lived closer to the BigMac than to the construction of the pyramids.
Due to the abundance of Olives, Egyptians used Olive oil for cooking. Herbs like cinnamon, coriander, pepper, mustard, salt, and cumin were used for seasoning. For sweetening, Egyptians used dates and figs, as sugar was not in the picture those times.
Alexandria was, for years, the largest city in the world, second only to Rome. The largest ethnicities were Greek, Egyptian and Jewish – each background bringing great variations in food and knowledge of cookery. Through wars, invasions, and migrations, Romans, Ottomans, Persians, and Arabs influenced the Alexandrian diet. Now the modern diet is reminiscent of its past while also drawing influences from other Middle-Eastern countries such as Lebanon and Syria as well as France and Italy. Traditional tagines from North Africa mingle on menus with spiced versions of Greek moussaka and macaroni béchamel.
The Egyptian- Alexandria cuisine is not very extravagant; it is not as elaborate as French or Italian cuisine and not as heavy as some of the food in the Arabian Gulf, it also does not rely on a massive amount of spices. It is very simple, and this simplicity is what makes it very so unique and attractive. However, food in Alexandria and the coast of Egypt tends to use a great deal of fish and other seafood. Gambari Mashway, whole grilled prawns, and Samek Mashway, grilled whole fish are only two of the numerous lightly season and modestly cook dishes that are the backbone of the modern age Alexandrian cuisine.
Baladi bread (Pita) is probably the one food item that Egyptians cannot do without, in fact, in the 70s the government moved to stop subsidizing the bread, and the result was riots that spanned the country and Cairo almost got burned to the ground. The government reinstated the subsidy almost immediately. The bread is flat bread made of whole wheat and bran and traditionally baked in a wood-burning oven, now in a gas-burning oven. When fresh out of the oven, it is so tasty that it can be eaten whole on its own, and with other foods, it gives them a completely new dimension.