It’s a Sunday night, and Cairo’s dining room is bustling with families and Disney-goers. The chef peeks her head out from behind the kitchen curtain to see diners quietly enjoying their meals as steaming-hot plates of Egyptian fare zoom out of the kitchen.
You can enjoy a menu full of favorites, including hummus, grape leaves, baba ghannouj and shawarma (grilled shrimp, beef and chicken), but what you really come here for are the specialty dishes.
Start with mombar mahshy, beef intestine stuffed with rice, cardamom, parsley and mastic (the powdered, hardened resin of the mastic tree). It’s fried until golden brown and served with a Mediterranean-style salsa. Perfect for sharing are the Egyptian-style falafel, using ground fava beans; the discs are moist and light. The sesame seeds they’re covered in add a nice crunch and nutty flavor.
Almost everyone goes for the koshari. Our former editorial assistant Yasmin Nouh (who’s partially of Egyptian descent) dubbed it Egyptian lasagna, and she’s right: Layers of rice, macaroni pasta and lentils are drowned in a spiced tomato sauce, then garnished with chickpeas and a heaping pile of fried onions. Mix it all together for the perfect bite.
The kebab plates—choose from chicken, kufta, beef and lamb—come with rice and two sides, the list of which includes hummus, salad and tangy labneh. Halabessa—chickpeas in a spicy tomato broth—is a popular street food that’s more of a soup than an actual drink. It’s served with lemon and a spoon to scoop out the warming chickpeas. Bamya, a savory okra beef stew is a great choice if you’re looking for something warm and hearty.
For dessert, get the kanafah, a traditional Middle Eastern cheese pastry soaked in a sweet, sugar-based syrup. This golden flaky treat (think shredded wheat) is the perfect way to end your meal. While taking our last bites, I couldn’t stop thinking of the Cure song “Fire In Cairo”—because Cairo’s food is straight fire!
Cairo Restaurant and Cafe, 10832 Katella Ave., Anaheim, (714) 999-8861; www.cairooc.com.