It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but it must be said that the way to an Egyptian’s heart is with cake! Egyptians have very sweet teeth…. and there are a huge range of yummy, sweet, tasty, glorious, in abundance, everywhere, sweet temptations.
Whether you call them:
- torte (layered cakes)
- sweet things (haga helwa)
you will probably want to try one of each of them!
So, who first thought of adding fat to flour and creating pasty and then filling it with yummy fillings? Well, opinions vary but it is maintained that it was the Ancient Egyptians who carry the title of first pastry bakers, probably with what is now known as: The Fig Roll.
A SUITABLE GIFT:
One of the fabulous customs of this country, is that when someone is invited to your home for tea or a meal, they will ALWAYS bring a gift with them: usually something sweet. So, how do you choose and where do you buy these yummy delicacies?
Scattered all over Egypt, and virtually one in every neighbourhood, all you have to do is ask a local person where is the nearest and best patisserie. They will smile, eyes will twinkle with fond memories, and stomach juices will begin to flow… and then with great excitement they will direct you to the shop of a thousand treats.
In these patisseries you can find a wide range of sweet things (and usually some savory on offer as well). Most of the sweet items have honey as the base, usually along with nuts, pastry, coconut or custard. They are ridiculously high in calories, but once you find your favourite, you will be hooked:
- Basbosa: this is a semolina based dessert
- Konafa: phylo pastry (or pastry strands rolled into a “nest”), with nuts and honey in the middle
- Zalabia: fingers or balls of batter, fried and can be stuffed with nuts or cream
and many more: some with custard in the middle, but coated in a sweet syrupy sauce.
Choose… then place your order, go and pay, hand over the receipt and your purchase will be weighed, boxed and tied with a ribbon. Then off you go…. and watch the envious glances you get from people on the street: everyone loves cake and sweet things, and wishes you were coming to their house!
AND IN RESTAURANTS:
- Uum Ali: a hot delicious steaming bowl of bread, milk, sugar, coconut and nuts
- Rice pudding: usually cold, rice with sweet milk custard
AND AT SPECIAL FEASTS / CELEBRATION TIMES:
- kahk: shortbread type biscuits plain or with filling, rolled in icing sugar
- torte: birthday type cakes: heavily iced and decorated, usually multi-layered
- cheese-cakes: of a variety of flavours: berry, mango, chocolate, caramel….. to name a few
In Alexandria, if you need to buy “take-away”, my choice is always:
EL SAIDY, near Sidi Gaber.
If you want to sit down to a nice slice of cake with some coffee, then try DELICES, near Ramla Station: it has history, charm and a little quirkiness!