Trying out new food is always an adventure. This time however we did not venture too far. We decided to try food from our neighbour to the south: Sudan.
Fortunately a few Sudanese restaurants are scattered around the Opera Square at Al-Attabah. They all seem cozy, cheap and small and thus their tables occupy the alleyways between the buildings that overlook the square.
Although it is encased in residential buildings and has a narrow entrance, Al-Khartoum restaurant seems to be the biggest in terms of space. The setting is simple and far from anything fancy. Everything is plastic; tables, chairs, cups, plates and cutlery. Sudanese music played on a big TV screen in the middle of the restaurant while patrons in their traditional Sudanese galabeya (loose, ankle-long dress typically worn by men) occupied the place and exchanged banter. All were comforting signs for us looking for an authentic Sudanese experience.
Glancing at the menu, the names of dishes were unfamiliar, except for a couple of dishes that seemed reminiscent of food from Upper Egypt. Luckily the waiter was on hand to help us make our choice. Encouraged by the prices, which range from EGP 5 to 30 per dish, we ordered several dishes, salads and drinks.
Once the order was made, the table was served in no time. Since it is Ramadan the waiter served the drinks first. We were brought the tamarind that is typical for Egypt, but also gongoliz, a yellowish sweet and tasty Sudanese drink. Gongoliz is indeed a perfect drink to break your fast with.
The food was served next. The first dish was aseeda with na’imia sauce. Aseeda is a meal in itself and is made of wheat flour, oil and honey. Its accompanying orange sauce was made of peanuts, onions, yogurt and minced beef. A Sudanese patron advised us to scrape the na’imia with our fingers instead of dipping the bread in it. This made the dish lighter but without the sweetness of the aseeda, it tasted a bit incoherent.
Another dish we tried was korasa, thick, fried and chewy bread severed with takleya paste on top. The paste is made of ground okra mashed with onions, tomato sauce and minced beef. Though very delicious, the dish was big and heavy so only order one side or a salad next to it.
We also ordered waika; a common dish in Upper Egypt and Sudan, composed of pureed okra and cooked with tomato sauce. Usually you would dunk either baladi bread (typical Egyptian bread made of wheat flour and bran) or Sudanese kesra into the waika. Kesra is a thin layer of bread made of corn flour. Even though it is a bit sour it can also be eaten plain.
The salads also had a Sudanese touch. The green salad was made of parsley, tomatoes and onions and seasoned with peanut sauce. Another dip was composed of tomato paste, garlic and what tasted like dill.
It seems that Sudanese cuisine uses three ingredients a lot; tomato sauce, ground okra and peanut sauce. Overall the experience of eating at Al-Khartoum was interesting and you can try out many different dishes for affordable prices.