Cairo and New Orleans seem to be using the same cookbook
By Kaylan Geiger
Follow the 30th parallel northwest from Cairo across the Atlantic Ocean to the United States and you will eventually run into New Orleans, Louisiana. Along with sharing the line of latitude, Cairo and New Orleans have a lot in common. The muddy, dark waters of the Nile and the Mississippi rivers provide the lifeline and are a defining characteristic of each city. For Cairenes, strolls along the Corniche are a must during summer nights, while New Orleanians take their leisure along the Riverwalk as the Mississippi flows by. In Cairo there are feluccas, and in New Orleans there are steamboats for music, feasting and dancing. Both cities have reputations of being hospitable to their guests, and some of their most popular recipes have a lot in common.
Red Beans and Rice/Fuul
Red beans and rice is a local favorite usually reserved for Mondays in New Orleans. Tradition has it that the beans are cooked on a low, simmering heat for several hours on Sunday so that they can be served on top of a fluffy bed of white rice for Monday’s dinner. The consistency of the red beans, also known as kidney beans, after being cooked for several hours with a variety of spices resembles fuul in both color and texture.
Best red beans and rice: Mother’s in Downtown (but home-cooked red beans and rice beats them all)
Okra is a staple in several New Orleans dishes, with its origins in creole cuisine coming all the way from West Africa. Okra in New Orleans is served in a variety of ways from succotash to fried, but a well-known side dish in the city is a simple concoction of diced tomatoes and okra mixed with spices. This dish is nearly identical to Egypt’s tomato-based okra dishes, which are often served with some type of meat.
Best okra: Evangeline in the French Quarter or Cochon in the Central Business District
The term po-boy is said to originate from the phrase “poor boy’s” sandwich, as they were cheap and easy to make. There are dozens upon dozens of different po-boy’s, from the classic fried shrimp to the roast beef smothered in gravy. They are a go-to comfort food for locals and each person has their favorite kind. They are not completely unlike taamiya sandwiches, which also change depending on who is making them — from plain taamiya to taamiya with nuts and taamiya with hot peppers.
Best po-boy: Parkway Bakery & Tavern in Mid-City
Gumbo is a mix of a lot of things, and each gumbo changes depending on who is cooking it. However, there are some essential components to any good gumbo: a dark roux, okra, tomatoes, rice, a lot of spices and usually some type of seafood or meat. Like gumbo, koshari is a staple dish in Egypt, composed of some essential ingredients: rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas, onions and tomato sauce.
Best gumbo: The Gumbo Shop in the French Quarter or Luizza’s by the Track in Mid-City
Bread Pudding/Om Ali
Bread pudding is a sweet tooth’s dream, and an example of how not to waste precious food. Day-old bread is combined with milk, sugar, eggs and sometimes nuts and fruit, baked to perfection and voila! You have bread pudding. It sounds simple, but that’s why it’s so sublime. Bread pudding is a tradition in New Orleans, just like Om Ali — with its puff pastry, milk and nuts — is a tradition in Egypt.
Best bread pudding: Commander’s Palace in the Garden District or NOLA Restaurant in the French Quarter