Rice pudding or as Egyptians prefer to call it “Roz Bil Laban” is an adored dessert among all Arabs and even worldwide. It’s cold, rich, and creamy, making it the perfect way to cool off during the summer heat. Made by heating rice and milk on a stovetop, it’s super easy and quick to whip up for any family gathering or occasion.
In Egypt, especially Alexandria, you will find several Ice cream parlors that also serve Egyptian desserts dotting the Corniche, Alexandria’s main street overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, serving everything from Ice-cream and Couscous (little balls of pasta made of semolina) to Om Ali (warm bread budding) and the infamous Roz Bil Laban.
The Scoop team decided to go on a little mission to find the best place in the coastal city that serves this mighty pudding. Visiting six shops in two hours, we were met with some big contenders.
To make sure we made a fair assessment of each pudding, we concocted our very own scoring system. Each shop gets a score out of five for the six below categories:
- Flavor (how rich and creamy the rich pudding is.)
- Toppings (how flavorful the toppings are.)
- Menu (the range and variety of dessert options offered.)
- Speed (the speed of service.)
- Seating (whether or not there is good seating and a nice view.)
- Cost (whether the pudding is more on the affordable (18 LE) or pricey side (23-25 LE.))
Gelaty Ahmed Seif
Sitting under one of Alexandria’s classic green shutter-adorned buildings, you’ll find this tiny store in one of the inner streets of the Bahari neighborhood, known to be the oldest standing district of the city. A family-owned business, running for more than 60 years, its original branch stands in that very spot.
Visiting it during sunset, we were lucky to be the only customers at the branch. The shopkeeper was pretty friendly. Despite us wanting to go for the original plain rice pudding, he really wanted to impress my friend and me, so he decided to let us try a specialty on his menu, hilariously called “Viagra”. This concoction is pretty naughty. There is no other way to describe it. Atop the already rich and creamy rice pudding are two large scoops of vanilla ice cream, a generous drizzling of honey, a bunch of mixed nuts, and two dollops of cream.
What We Liked: All the toppings really meshed well together, especially the cream and honey, known to be a great combo and a go-to topping for a quick breakfast sandwich. The service was very quick as the shopkeeper moved swiftly while he added each topping. Its prices were not too shabby with the plain rice pudding costing 10 EGP, adding mixed nuts tops it up to 20 EGP while the Viagra cost 40 EGP.
What We Didn’t Like: All the toppings overpowered the rice pudding which was in itself not very creamy or rich in flavor. Their menu was very limited with only five basic items including Couscous and Om Ali. The seating was pretty poor as there were only a few tables and the view was of the adjoining street as well as other shops and vendors.
- Flavor: 2/5
- Toppings: 4/5
- Menu: 2/5
- Speed: 4/5
- Cost: 3/5
Overall Score: 16/30
Open for only a year and several months, with more than 10 branches across Cairo and Alexandria, this is a popularly franchised take on the typical old Egyptian dessert shop revamped with a big lit-up sign as well as an extensive menu. Each of the well-known basic desserts ranging from Om Ali to Ice-cream is made with a twist. For example, with Om Ali, there’s everything from the traditional version to one that is covered in Nutella, nuts, and cream.
In comparison to its older alternative, Gelaty Ahmed Seif, B.Laban’s bahari branch was more packed and lively with several people sitting at its tables in front of the shop. In terms of the star of the show, we decided to use a different approach when ordering the rice pudding. We stuck to the typical, simple order of rice pudding topped with mixed nuts as our go-to order for B.Laban and the rest of the shops we visited later that day.
What We Liked: Unlike the other dessert shops, with B.Laban, you get your mixed nuts served in a separate bag rather than atop the pudding. This is great as it allows you to add as little or as many mixed nuts as you like. As mentioned, their menu is diverse and has many cool variations. They also have a nice seating area in front of the shop with a view of the Corniche overlooking the sea.
What We Didn’t Like: The rice pudding was very bland, it was not creamy and the consistency of the pudding was very watery. The toppings of mixed nuts were also very tasteless. With the flavor being a flop, it was surprising that the Roz Bil Laban with mixed nuts cost 23 EGP, hence, being on the more pricey side in comparison to Gelaty Ahmed Seif.
- Flavor: 1/5
- Toppings: 1/5
- Menu: 5/5
- Speed: 4/5
- Seating: 4/5
- Cost: 2/5
Overall Score: 17/30
Ask any Alexandrian what is the most famous dessert shop in the city and more likely than not, they will say “Azza”. This shop, open since the 1960s by Muhammed Jamal started off as a small cart named after his eldest daughter “Azza”. Over time, it expanded and became a popular chain that opened all over Egypt. It is mainly popular for its ice cream especially its milk and mango flavors, a fan favorite of any Alexandrian. Just as with the other dessert shops, we visited the bahari branch overlooking the Mediterranean sea and ordered a Roz Bil Laban with mixed nuts.
What We Liked: The seating area in front of the shop was pleasant with comfy plastic red chairs and wooden sturdy tables. Azza also offers the option of sitting right in front of the water across from the shop. The place is not too crowded as they expanded their shop by taking up extra pavement space to add more chairs and tables. In terms of service, they’re pretty quick and their rice pudding is very creamy and flavorful. They also have a pretty impressive menu with a wide range of dessert options.
What We Didn’t Like: The rice pudding was warm and slightly watery. The mixed nuts were a little too sweet with too much-added coconut. It was also on the pricier side with the Roz Bil Laban with mixed nuts costing 25 EGP.
- Flavor: 3/5
- Toppings: 3/5
- Menu: 5/5
- Speed: 4/5
- Seating: 4/5
- Cost: 1/5
Overall Score: 20/30
Opened in the 1940s, this ice cream parlor and Egyptian dessert shop is one of the oldest and first to open in Alexandria. It’s a family-run business and today, Hassan Makram stands as its current owner. With notable presidents like Egypt’s Anwar El Sadat and Hosney Mubarak visiting it to cool off and enjoy its ice cream, the shop is evidently special and revered by the Egyptian community. Checking out the Bahari branch, we tried out our usual order of rice pudding with mixed nuts.
What We Liked: Our Roz Bil Laban had a generous amount of nuts. In terms of flavor, the rice pudding was very creamy and cold. It was reasonably priced, costing only 18 EGP, the lowest price so far. In comparison to the other shops, because of the great taste coupled with the affordable price, we felt it was worth the money. As an added bonus, their service was pretty quick.
What We Didn’t Like: There wasn’t a proper seating area and the shop was pretty empty. Their menu was limited in comparison to other shops because they do not serve unique specialties like Viagra. In terms of their toppings of mixed nuts, we found them to be too sweet and overwhelming.
Overall Score: 21/30
El Sheikh Wafiq
One of the most crowded out of all the dessert shops we visited so far, found along Ras El Tin street, this shop was initially a small cart that used to sell Couscous and over time, it expanded and opened up as a shop in Bahari. Its dessert options also grew with fan favorites like Om Ali, Belila (a warm dessert consisting of wheat, milk, nut, and raisins,) and Roz Bil Laban making their way to its menu. Here’s our take on its Roz Bil Laban with mixed nuts:
What We Liked: Their prices were very reasonable with one Roz Bil Laban with mixed nuts costing only 18 LE.
What We Didn’t Like: The shop was extremely crowded. To order, we had to take a number and wait for at least ten minutes to receive our Roz Bil Laban. The fact that there was no seating did not help. In comparison to its contenders, this was probably the only shop with the slowest service time. In terms of flavor, the Roz Bil Laban was very plain, it was not creamy and had fewer toppings in comparison to all the other shops. It’s menu was also limited as it didn’t include any specialties.
- Flavor: 1/5
- Toppings: 2/5
- Menu: 3/5
- Speed: 1/5
- Cost: 5/5
Overall Score: 13/30
Opening in 1960 as a small cart selling rice pudding, Belila, and apricot pudding dubbed “Mishmishia”, today, this dessert shop has more than 20 branches across Egypt. It was considered the very first shop to sell ice-cream during the winter in Alexandria as before, they would only sell ice-cream in the summer months. Visiting its branch at Mostafa Kamel, unlike its contenders, this shop does not overlook the Corniche but rather, it stands in front of the army’s residential complex. Here’s our final take on our selected dish: the Roz Bil Laban with mixed nuts.
What We Liked: Our favorite so far in terms of flavor as it was the creamiest and richest Roz Bil Laban among its contenders. Its toppings of mixed nuts were not too sweet so they did not overpower the flavor of the rice pudding. Its menu was also great as it was diverse but also included some fun combos we have not seen in the other shops like rice pudding with fruit salad. The added bonus was that their service was pretty quick.
What We Didn’t Like: The Roz Bil Laban with nuts was pricey, costing 25 LE. The shop did not offer any seating so we had to stand while eating the rice pudding.
- Flavor: 5/5
- Toppings: 5/5
- Menu: 4/5
- Speed: 5/5
- Cost: 1/5
Overall Score: 21/30
If you have not noticed, we do not have an actual winner. Instead, there is a tie between Gelaty Makram and Saber. Both have made it to the top with a total score of 21. When it comes to eating a rice pudding that is creamy and rich with flavorful toppings, these are your two go-to spots.
Let us know if you agree with our suggestions. If you ever drop by Alexandria any time soon, check these places out and see which one will rice to the top.
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