If your taste-buds and stomach are foreign to Middle Eastern food, Zooba might be the place to get them familiarised with Middle Eastern spices and flavours. I’d encourage any first-timer to Egypt, to visit Zooba for yummy street eats in Cairo Zamalek, mainly because it’s very palatable to a foreigner’s taste buds.
At Zooba, you get Middle Eastern staples, such as Koshari (an Egyptian dish topped with rice, macaroni and lentils, topped with a tomato-like sauce) and signature Zooba sandwiches (hawashi) coupled with fillings of your choice.
We arrived at Zooba past lunchtime, and waited about 30 minutes for a table for three. The main reason was because the seating capacity in the restaurant was quite small, sitting about 25 people each time. My suggestion would be to order a takeaway if you live nearby.
I suppose you could consider Zooba to be pretty legit, as it was frequented by locals from the upper-middle class. There were families, and teenage girls hanging out, and an Egyptian American guy who was having lunch with a Caucasian lady working at a NGO.
We were very hungry by the time we got a seat. It was 3.30pm and we did not have lunch.
We ordered the Koshari, which was delicious when eaten warm. A great filling for hungry stomachs due to its starchy base. I typically dislike mixing rice with noodles, but this mix of tiny grains of rice and macaroni was really delicious. So were the chick peas and fried onions. I wished they were more generous with the sauce, which is key to keeping the dish moist. It’s like a Middle Eastern sort of pasta.
We ordered two sandwiches as well. I got the Zooba Hawashi. According to HoustonPress.com, the hawashi is a ‘a cross between a hamburger, a Mexican gordita and a South American empanada. ‘ Essentially, it’s a pita bread sandwich with a flavourful meat patty inside.
Apart from the burnt bits with came with the sandwich, I enjoyed my the hawashi immensely. The ground beef was moist, warm and comforting to the stomach which was in need of some serious filling. However, I would probably still be hungry at the end of it, if not for the Koshari.
We ordered masala teas, one with milk and one without. To me, it was alright – not as great as the masala chais I had in India.
The Travelling Squid’s Take
Zooba was a recommendation found in the Lonely Planet. It makes a great introduction to Middle Eastern cuisine, with its combination of familiar Western flavours, such as meaty burgers. It was a great way to start the culinary experience in Egypt.
If you’re staying in Novotel, Zooba is a 20 minute walk away, if you have time on your hands. If you’re taking an Uber or a taxi, avoid the peak hour as the traffic congestion along the 26th July St in Zamalek can get really bad.
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Address: 26th of July St, Zamalek | Intersection of 26th of July and Shagaret El Dor, Cairo 11411, Egypt
Telephone number: +20 16082
Website: https://www.facebook.com/ZoobaEats/ (You get the menu here too.)