Egyptian Arabic Dictionary

Breakfast in Egypt

fiTaar فـِطا َر (breakfast) is a generally a leisurely meal eaten early in the day, either with family or with work colleagues. Because it can be very hot in the middle of the day, many people, especially those who work outdoors, do a morning's work before eating breakfast.

Breakfast is normally flatbread served with a selection of simple dishes. You rip off a piece of bread, separate the top and bottom layers, then make into a widn و ِدن (ear), and use this to scoop up one or more of the other items. These might include:

  • fool midammis فول مـِد َمّـِس: broad beans cooked slowly in a damassa د َما َسّـَة
  • TaAmiya طـَعمـِيـَة: deep-fried patties made with ground beans and herbs
  • salaTa baladi سـَلـَطـَة بـَلـَدي: tomato, onions, fresh coriander, lemon juice and olive oil
  • tomato salad: tomato and soft white cheese
  • Turshi طـُرشي: mixed vegetables pickled in vinegar with chilli and spices
  • gibna roomi جـِبنـَة روميhard cheese
  • salami
  • babaGanoog بـَبـَغـَنوج: a delicious smoky paste made from roasted aubergines
  • hummuS حـُمّـُص: chick pea paste
  • baTaaTis mihammara بـَطا َطـِس مـِحـَمّـَر َة: french fries or crisps(EN)/chips(US)
  • 'arnabeeT قـَرنـَبيط: deep fried cauliflower
  • bitangaen بـِتـَنجا َن: aubergines grilled with lots of garlic: large aubergines are sliced, small ones are split and stuffed
  • biyD wa bastirma بـِيض و َ بـَستـِرمـَة: beef preserved in molasses and herbs, thinly sliced and fried, then made into an omelette.
  • shakshooka شـَكشوكـَة: eggs poached in a tomato sauce

Some people prefer white bread, which is normally quite thin and about 15cm diameter: others prefer brown bread, which is slightly thicker, about 25cm diameter and covered with radda ر َدّ َة (bran).

Egyptians eat more bread per person than any other country in the world. You will often see people queueing outside a good bakery. The bread is freshly cooked, and is still hot when you buy it. Sometimes people lay the bread on the pavement to let it cool before they carry it home.

Egyptian families are large, so people take away a big stack flatbreads, or use a woven wooden frame to carry the bread.

Many of the dishes are available in breakfast food shops: there are usually a couple of tables so you can eat in the shop, but most people take it away. Local businesses often phone through an order, and somebody brings everything on a large steel tray. Most egyptians cannot afford to eat meat, so the typical breakfast dishes are all vegetarian. Most dishes are around a gineeh جـِنيه per portion.

Another favourite at breakfast time is fiTeer فـِطير, a flaky and very dense variety of flatbread. You can buy it from shops that sell fiTyr and beetza بيتزاَ (Egyptian pizzas are made using filo pastry, the same as fiTyr). You can buy it with a selection of sweet and savoury toppings, or just plain.

Fityr is often served with Taheena طـَحينـَة (sesame seed paste) and Aasal 'iswid عـَسـَل إسو ِد (molasses). The two are poured carefully into a bowl so that the tahina forms a layer over the molasses, then pieces of fiTyr are dipped into the bowl.

Mike Green 28Nov2015

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