The beauty of living in a diverse and multi-cultural country is that you have an opportunity to sample the best of each country and its cuisine. To cater to the Egyptian community residing in Saudi Arabia and offering others a taste of Egypt, the Swiss International Al-Hamra Hotel in Dammam has launched an Egyptian-themed night.
At the launch, customs and objects d’art that are unique to Egyptian culture were showcased. For example, the traditional Egyptian red, white and blue qomash cloth was used to decorate the restaurant; traditional Egyptian hats and tahtibs were lined up against the walls of hall; Egyptian pyramids, chests of coins, and other artifacts were placed around the restaurant to add to the theme.
With a beverage of choice, we headed toward the appealing street-food section — food carts that were heaped with the typical Egyptian foul medames, kebda iskandarani (fried liver), sambousek and falafel. From the appetizers, we tried the lesan asfor (orzo and chicken soup), the hawawshi (flatbread filled with minced meat) and the fluffy feteer meshaltet (layered pastry) with honey.
From the salads section, we sampled the cheese and salami platter, with tahini, toum, olives and a variety of mixed salads. Whole tomatoes were stuffed with ground green chilies and garlic — a taste unique to our palate.
With a mission to try food that we were unfamiliar with or would not normally have, we headed toward the main course. We tried the chicken molokhia, a thick and sticky stew made with nalta jute and chicken broth, accompanied with short-grain sticky rice. Eggplant was rubbed with a coriander and garlic paste, lending it a light, roasted and caramelized flavor. Other options include meat with okra, Egyptian-style dolmas and kousa mahshi (stuffed squash and zucchini.)
For the adventurous connoisseur there is beef tongue, and for people who prefer the usual cuts there is roasted chicken and duck with vegetables and a host of grilled items. The winner at the buffet was koshari, the wholesome and renowned Egyptian dish made up of short-grain rice, chickpeas, macaroni, lentils and vermicelli served with a tomato chili sauce.
In the desserts section, there is an array of Egyptian sweets, such as basbousa (semolina cake), baklava, zalabyah (fitters soaked in sugar syrup), lokmat el-kadi (dumplings in sugar syrup), balah el-Sham (sweeter version of churros), umm Ali (pastry and milk pudding) and cakes designed to look like the pyramids of Egypt.
The Swiss International Al-Hamra Hotel hosts the Egyptian theme night every Thursday from 6:30 to 11 p.m. and costs SR150 per person ($40).
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