Koshari (Egypt’s National Dish)
When you first look at the Koshari recipe, it appears to be a hodgepodge of different ingredients.
And it is, it’s just that these ingredients work really well together, and actually taste fabulous.
You will find it sold everywhere in Egypt, restaurants, homes and even out in the open by street vendors.
One of the things I love about Cairo is that there is always so much going on.
From people selling their wares in the street, to chatting over a cup of tea on the sidewalk outside a tea house.
People walking hand in hand on the corniche along the Nile, smiling and chatting.
Stopping off at their very favorite koshari vendor for a little dinner.
There is no one koshari recipe really.
You will find that everyone has their own way of making the dish within the parameters of the ingredients.
I feel like koshari kind of reflects Egypt in that it’s got a lot going on, and yet it all comes together in the end.
The following recipe is my take on this very iconic dish.
What is Koshari?
It is a dish that is made from rice and lentils, pasta (usually macaroni), and chickpeas.
Add to this a spicy tomato sauce with crunchy onions, and there you have the essence of this meal.
It reminds me in some ways of mujadara, also an Egyptian dish made of rice and lentils.
Topped with the same type of crunchy onions, and served with yogurt and salad.
A very nutritious and delicious meal much like this one.
Koshari is indeed the national dish of Egypt but is eaten widely in Middle Eastern countries.
However, that said, koshari appears to have originated in India and got to Egypt via the British in the 1800’s
It was a meal of rice and lentils mainly that got jazzed up by the local culture
It is a very cheap and filling meal that was perfect for a country where incomes are not very high.
Koshari is kind of like a comfort food, full of carbs to make you feel happy and content.
How to Make Koshari
I like to start by making the crispy onions.
This allows me to use the oil they are fried in when making the other parts of the dish.
Slice onions into rounds and separate into individual rings, and fry in vegetable oil over medium heat.
Stir regularly to keep from burning, the process of crisping onions takes about 20 minutes.
Put the fried onions on a paper towel to remove excess oil, and set aside.
In a cooking pot, stir rice in a tablespoon of oil, add vermicelli; 2 minutes stirring until coated.
Coat the rice and pasta in the oil, add cooked lentils and drained can of chickpeas.
Add cold water and bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer, partially cover with a lid.
Cook until water has evaporated, and rice is soft and fully cooked, about 15 minutes.
In a separate pan, fry garlic, with red pepper flakes, then add vinegar.
Add the tomato puree and cumin and bring to a boil while stirring, reduce the heat to a simmer.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, add a tsp of olive oil, cook the macaroni al dente.
Once all the ingredients are done, serve the dish in the follow way:
Put a couple of spoonfuls of the rice mixture in a wide bowl.
Place a spoonful of pasta on top of the rice.
Followed by a handful of the crispy onions, salt and pepper.
Top with tomato sauce, or I like to put the sauce around the perimeter of the bowl, circling the rice.
Some people make it in layers with the rice on the bottom followed by lentils, then chickpeas.
Macaroni, followed by the sauce and topped with the crunchy onions.
Make this dish using this recipe and then make it your own by trying different options.
It is a fun recipe to tailor to your favorite tastes.
Tips for Making
- Try to make the different parts of the dish as simultaneously as possible.
- Cooking the chickpeas with the rice makes it easier to serve.
- Don’t overcook the onions, those in many ways are the best part!
What to Serve With It
You can serve yogurt, hot sauce, and even bread with this dish.
Arabs are used to eating bread with many of their meals.
Often if bread is not on the table in an Arab household then something feels like it’s missing.
A green vegetable like broccoli, or green beans with a butter sauce and pine nuts.
Try a fresh salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce and onion with an olive oil and lemon juice dressing.
Pickles, olives, hot peppers, will all be great additions to this dish.
For the Crispy Onions
- 1 Onion sliced
- ½ cup Vegetable Oil
- Dash of Salt
For the Tomato Sauce
- 4 Garlic Cloves minced
- 1 tsp Crushed Red Pepper
- 1 tsp Cumin
- 3 cups Tomato Puree
- 3 tbsp White Vinegar
- 2 tbsp Oil from Onions
For the Rice Mix
- 1 cup Lentils cooked
- 1 can Chickpeas drained
- 1 cup Rice
- 2 cups Macaroni cooked
- ¼ cup Vermicelli
- 4 cups Water
- 1 tsp Salt
- Remainder of Oil from Onions
- Slice onions and separate into rings, sprinkle with salt and fry until crunchy. Set aside.
- Saute the garlic and red pepper flakes in vegetable oil.
- Add vinegar, tomato puree and cumin.
- Stir while bringing to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.
- Add rice and oil to a cooking pot and fry the rice while stirring for two minutes.
- Add vermicelli, stir and coat with oil.
- Add cooked lentils, chickpeas, salt and cold water.
- Bring to a boil, stir once or twice, and turn down to a simmer.
- Partially cover the pot with a lid, continue to simmer until rice is fully cooked.
- Serve by putting a couple of spoonfuls in a wide bowl, topped with a spoonful of macaroni. Follow this with a topping of crunchy onions. Pour the tomato sauce around the edge of the rice mixture, and serve.