Cairo is famous for many things, but bland food isn’t one of them. Like its bustling and boisterous streets, its crazy traffic and maddening noise, Cairo’s food is just as lively, bold and intense. Forget subtle flavors, Cairo’s street food will hit you like an explosion of herbs, spices and textures that are no less colorful than the city that inspired these culinary creations.
Abou Haidar is a culinary temple that has attracted food pilgrims from all corners of Egypt for generations. Famous for its legendary shawarma, this gem sits in the heart of Heliopolis’ perpetually bustling Roxy square.
The eatery is almost always swarming with hungry patrons and for good reason. Abou Haidar is one of the few purveyors of Egyptian shawarma, which packs a tangier punch than its Levantine cousin. Seasoned to perfection and bursting with flavor, Abou Haidar’s beef and chicken shawarma are consistently succulent and balanced, complete with tahini and all the veggie fixings. They are guaranteed to satisfy the pickiest of eaters and make your taste buds sing no matter how particular your palate might.
A street food institution, Baba Abdo is one of Cairo’s biggest and most well-known street meat chains. Boasting an extensive menu of classic Egyptian street delicacies, such as fried cow brains, liver and sausages, Baba Abdo offers a well-rounded culinary experience.
One of the franchise’s most popular creations, however, is their crumbled sausages. This deconstructed meat sandwich is a favorite among many of Baba Abdo’s loyal devotees because of its rich textures, which serve as the perfect conduit for the bold flavors and the generous seasoning packed in every mouthful.
Fava beans and falafel are a match made in heaven, but Egypt’s favorite vegan power couple truly come alive at Bashandy. There is a simple reason why this storied falafel restaurant has earned its rightful place on this list and that is consistency.
Each morsel is guaranteed to deliver on the promises made by the aromas that waft from this perpetually crowded Nasr City landmark. Packed with flavor and seasoned down to a science, Bashandy’s fava beans stew will never go unnoticed by your senses the way fuul sometimes does when it’s bland, gummy and unenthusiastically put together.
Another street food staple, Abu Tarek’s Koshary is proof that veganism and flavor can go hand in hand. Thanks to its boldly seasoned vinegar sauce and the restaurant’s signature chili paste, this traditional dish—which consists of lentils and rice, macaroni and crispy fried onions—packs quite the punch when it comes to flavor, texture and depth.
This relatively new fuul and falafel chain is fast joining the ranks of culinary legends thanks to its unique take on these vegan classics, which fuses them with fresh, crisp mediterranean flavors that make for even bolder and more complex layers of taste. Zooba’s crowd pleasing Hawawshi is no different!
A cross between a Sloppy Joe and a burger patty, this classic Egyptian street meat sandwich comes to life in Zooba’s interpretation, which marries the gritty textures of the meat with the earthiness of arugula, the sweet and sour tanginess of fresh tomatoes with a rich, thick layer of mozzarella cheese.