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What Is Kushari?

By Angie Bates
Updated May 16, 2024
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Considered Egypt's national dish, kushari is a type of pasta normally served with a tomato-based sauce. This dish is unusual because it not only includes pasta noodles, it also includes rice and lentils, making the meal extremely high in starches. Kushari is often found in small local restaurants and stands in Egypt. Though it can be made at home, this dish is better suited to mass production and professional settings.

Though macaroni pasta is often used for kushari, any type of pasta, including long noodles, may be used. A type of long-grained rice is generally included. Brown lentils are preferred in this dish.

In addition to starches, onions and garlic are used. Crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce, in addition to pepper flakes, are included as well. Chickpeas are generally added, and meat, often lamb or chicken, can be included. As with many dishes, salt and pepper are added to taste. Additional seasoning includes cinnamon or cumin.

To make kushari, onions are sliced and then fried in oil. Some versions cook the onions long enough to caramelize. Whether simply fried or caramelized, the onions may be removed from the pan and allowed to drain on a paper towel after cooking. Some versions, however, included chopped onions in addition to the sliced. These are fried in a separate pan and the other ingredients are added to them.

The garlic and pepper flakes, as well as the tomato sauce, are added to the pan after the onions are fried. The mixture is allowed to simmer, and water is added as needed. Once simmered, salt, pepper, and any additional spices are included.

The lentils, rice, and pasta are all cooked separately. Each are simmered or boiled in their own pot of water. The main reason kushari is so tricky to cook at home is because of these starches. Not only does the cook need enough space on the stove top to have all three and the tomato sauce cooking at once, each element has a different cooking time, so timing all four elements to finish at the same time is nearly an art.

If chickpeas are used, they are combined with the cooked pasta. Once all the ingredients are cooked, the lentils, pasta, and rice are combined in a bowl. The tomato sauce mixture is then poured over the top, and the completed dish is garnished with the fried onions. In Egypt, kushari is often served with a vinegar based hot sauce.

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