How many good food stories start with a home cook being pestered by their friends and family to go professional? Here’s another one. George Kaldas and Ishac Soliman, two Egyptian cousins-in-laws and hospitality newcomers, opened a food truck in February, El Qahirah. “We prepare these dishes for our families at home. They've been at us for ages, ‘Why don't you do it, why don't you do it?’” says Soliman.
Wisely, considering their lack of experience in commercial cooking and Sydney’s lack of exposure to Egyptian food (there’s only one other serious option, Cairo Street Food), they’ve kept their repertoire down to just three of Egypt’s most recognisable dishes koshary, fuul medames and taameya. Most will recognise the latter as falafel; they certainly look similar. But Soliman says there are several differences. “It’s similar but this is made with fava beans, fresh shallots, coriander, onion, parsley and garlic. That’s why it’s so green. The flavour is different too, because of the freshness and flavour from the garlic and coriander.”
The taameya are tossed with fresh tomato, cucumber, radish and pickles and served in baladi, an Egyptian wholemeal pita bread that’s about as easy to find in Sydney as Guatemalan cuisine (Kaldas and Soliman get theirs from an elderly Egyptian man in Emu Plains). The baladi is also the wrap for the fuul medames, a traditional breakfast dish of spiced and slow-cooked fava beans, served with pickles, tomato and cucumber.
The latter two dishes may be reminiscent of other Lebanese and Middle Eastern dishes but the option that is uniquely Egyptian is koshary. “It’s a popular street food. If there was a national dish of Egypt it would be this,” says Soliman. It’s a rough stack of different ingredients starting with rice and lentils then noodles (in this case macaroni), a cumin-spiced tomato salsa, chickpeas and crispy fried onions.
Those three dishes, a hibiscus tea and that’s it. “We have some ideas, maybe we'll add some Egyptian sweets down the track.” They may also do events, but for now it’s service from a bright white, blue and red truck.
For locations and hours check El Qahirah’s Facebook page.