Hailing from Alexandria myself, I always ate renowned local food at home, but some very delicious dishes stood out as specialties that will always be a part of Alex and its air and sea. Most of the foods that are local to Alex are seafood based (makes sense), but there are also other delectable dishes that are worth sharing and experimenting with at home. Here is a roundup of the ones our hearts warmed up to:
Alexandrian Foul (Foul Eskandarani)
As if we needed another style of fuul to the huge list we already have! But this one definitely is a must try. There are two ways of doing it: sautéed onions and tomato sauce with cumin or just with sweated onions and cumin. Lots of lemon, of course, to go along with that.
Alexandrian Liver (Kebda Eskandarani)
This is a classic. Strips of beef liver sautéed in garlic, chili, cumin, lemon and tiny dices of green pepper. Have mini balady bread loaves to sandwich some in or just have it with plain white rice and be sure to add some sauce on the rice.
‘Whip’ Green Beans (Literally translated as Lobya Karabeek)
These green beans are not your average. In fact, they were introduced to Alex at the time when the Greeks were almost half of the population and they found their way into Alexandrian soil. These very very long green beans are either chopped up and sautéed in lemon juice and olive oil with tomatoes and onion, or slightly fried to get softer and then coiled up in an oven dish to form a pie and cooked in sauce blanc.
Squid Gratin with Tomato Sauce
Squids bubbled up, sizzling hot in a gratin oven dish with sautéed onions, garlic, carrots, bell peppers, chili and tomatoes. That’s one of the mouthwatering addictive ones.
Fried White Bait (Besarya)
These small, silver, finger-sized fishies serve as mezze/appetizer before the main meal. They’re washed very well with vinegar then dipped into flour to fry up and sprinkled with cumin and chili for a spicy finish.
Gelato (or Gelatee in a more colloquial sense of the word)
This is more known to modern Alex now, not as a signature dessert but more as in a local thing you have to try when you are there. It’s a more local version of the Italian gelato where fresh fruits and milk are used to create colorful, natural flavors – famous stores such as Azza, Nizamy and Makram have people queuing up all day to get their hands on some.
Sayadeya Rice (as in Fisherman’s Rice)
This is the delicious, caramel colored rice that is served beside most fish and seafood dishes anywhere, but in Alex there’s always a special twist to it. Sautéed onions and carrots form the base of that delectable carb dish, then rice is friend along with them, as well as with some water, pepper and cumin. Sometimes small shrimps are boiled and added on top for garnish.
This is another level of kofta all together, but a really serious one. Mini shrimps are blended with drained rice, coriander, parsley, dill, garlic and onions to form a soft dough and shaped into finger patties. After frying in oil for a few minutes, they’re popped into a freshly simmering tomato sauce and served with sayadeya rice on the side. Sacrilege!
A quick visit to any fishmonger in Alex and he will recommend more than one type of fish that can be used for soup, but parrot fish (it’s a red one here in the local stores) is the best for this soup. Onions are sautéed with a few pieces of mastic to give it a kick, then water, dill, parsley and the fish are added and simmered over low heat for 30 to 45 minutes. Serve in a bowl with some fish from the soup – it’s a great winter treat, but Alexandrians will have it any day, of course.
Eel (yes, not only in sushi dishes)
Eel is very common to Alex but it’s not as easily cleaned at home just like other seafood varieties are, so it’s best to get a fishmonger to do it for you. You can either grill it with olive oil and lemon, or cook it with rice where the fats and juices from the eel mix in and cook the rice with the water. Very different, but worth the try!
WE SAID THIS: Our mouths are watering just thinking about these dishes!