As I write this, it is the beginning of the hot season in Egypt, the cold temperatures are rising steadily, and people are swopping their winter clothes for the lighter, summer ones. It is also heading towards the end of Ramadan, and this reminded me that it is a good time to write about some soups! Egyptians do like their soups, wether it is hot or cold, a soup is a welcome and often expected starter to any meal.
Types of Soups:
- BIRD’S TONGUE SOUP:
This is a very popular soup for “Iftar” (the breaking of the fast at sunset during the month of Ramadan). It is also a favourite with many of our guests, once they have got over the name of the soup! The name of the soup in Arabic is “lisaan asfor” which in English is “bird’s tongue soup”. If you have a quick imagination, as you glance into the steaming bowl, it can be rather off-putting. It is usually a clear broth-type liquid, brownish in colour, with hundreds of little “tongues of birds” floating around in it. But let me assure you: these are not tongues of many, many little birds, but rather orzo pasta, which when cooked looks suspiciously like a bird’s tongue!
The ingredients in this simple soup, is chicken broth (or if you want to go quick and easy, many people choose to use chicken stock cubes) with cumin, and then just before eating, add some lemon and a touch of freshly ground black pepper.
If you can get over the unfortunate images conjured up by the name and actually swallow a spoonful of the soup, it is very tasty.
2. LENTIL SOUP:
This is our favourite soup, but only available in winter. It is a thick pureed soup, with the orange lentils as the base ingredient, but having loads of garlic, carrot and even potato added, making it a thick and extremely tasty soup. Usually we are like the famous musical character Oliver:
“Please Sir, may we have some more?”
3. FISH SOUP:
Because Alexandria lies along the coastline of the Mediterranean, fish is a big favourite among the people. Fish soup is enjoyed by many. If you are having fish as a main course, many restaurants bring you a small bowl of clear fish broth as a starter. It doesn’t look like much, but it is delicious.
4. THE OTHER ‘USUAL’ SOUPS:
Egyptians do enjoy the “creamy” soups: you can usually find a creamy chicken and a creamy mushroom soup. In my opinion these tend to be more cream than soup, so I usually go for the first 2 options. And then finally you can find a tomato soup, which is usually pale red in colour, not as bright as some famous European tomato soups and we are told they are usually very tasty.
These soups will invariably be accompanied by some delicious and fresh Egyptian bread: balady bread (local flat breads) and the sun-bread of southern Egypt are our absolute first choices. Grab a piece, tear off a chunk, dip and eat…. Heaven!