There's more to the grimy city than meets the eyes and nose. Take a detour and explore some of Nasr's delectable hidden gems and comfort foods.
The good people here at CairoScene have appointed me to once again write about two of my favourite things besides cream soda and old Russian cinema; food and Nasr City. You like human food, don’t you? Of course you do, why wouldn’t you? Are you a crab person?
Nasr City might be a densely populated, noisy, and hellish urban landscape to most of you (not me), but it is home to many a delicious delicacy; from hidden Asian gems to quick and easy comfort foods, there’s something for every palette in the concrete wasteland, and these are just a few examples of what it has to offer.
You can find pizza almost everywhere nowadays but it isn’t really pizza now, is it? It’s hard to find a place that makes that huge, Ninja Turtles manhole cover sized bullshit that you only see on Instagram (RIP Pizza Station), and though it's not exactly hidden by any means, Di Napoli is the answer to most everybody's greasy prayers; massive fucking pies with a variety of options, single large slices for those of you with commitment issues (or you just wanna watch your weight), and a fine selection of toppings and sides to ease whatever pain you happen to be in (or if you’re out of your facilities). Though a lot of people from re7ab (which is perpetually stuck in the 90s) will tell you their branch is better, they’re both comparable when it comes to quality and they both sell massive slices of fine-ass greasy pizza, friends. Really, any pizza place that sells huge single slices of thin, chewy and greasy New York style pizza is, to me, a godsend.
So maybe you’re not into greasy pizza love (what is wrong with you?) and feel like going down a more familiar path, something closer to home but with Syrian quality in mind. Well then, friendo, you need to get yourself over to 7attab; offering some of the best and most varied kofta in all the land, the tastiest Arabic shawerma and some incredibly satisfying broasted chicken all for a bargain price, you’d be missing out on one of Nasr City’s best Syrian gems. One thing that stood out when I ordered the chicken (of course I would) was how their fries aren’t…..fries, they’re thick little squishy chips with a surprisingly authentic flavour, and they make dipping them in whatever sauce you deem fit (garlic dip obviously) a lot more satisfying.
The Asian Persuasion
Let me tell you something you might not be privy to, friendos; Nasr City is home to a wonderfully diverse range of ethnicities, making their way to study at Al Azhar and other establishments. chief of which is the Asian demographic, with people hailing from places like Malaysia, Thailand and the Xinjiang autonomous region of China setting up shop in the 7th district (El 7ai El Sabe3) and bringing a bit of their culinary culture along with them.
I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I just recommend one Asian establishment to go to (it’s called integrity), so gingerly hold onto my belt and let’s explore three of the best Nasr City has to offer.
First on my recommendations is El Nile Thai; nestled at building 4 on Imam Abu Hanifa Street in the 7th district of Nasr city, Nile is a wonderfully authentic Thai restaurant with a lived in, homey atmosphere (do not expect anything ritzy), simple seating, customers from all corners of the city and a menu full of some of the most authentic Thai cuisine you can find in Cairo. Their selection of noodles, fried rice and full Thai delicacies is exquisitely flavourful, and for the money you’d usually pay for a big mac and fries, you could get a family sized smorgasbord, so it gets a solid 9/10 on my bang for buck scale.
Second on my recommendations is Nur Malaysia; located exactly at building 42 on Zaker Hussein Street in the 7th district, Nur Malaysia has been around for quite some time, and with a delightfully welcoming staff and some of the most authentic seating in the biz, Nour offers proper Malaysian cuisine with a “Western” option for those of you too scared of the outlandish (or if you just want fries and chicken). Though I’ve never been to Malaysia (or anywhere past Hurghada really), their dishes (and especially the noodles) managed to convey as much of the country's melange (I know words) of scintillating flavours as possible to my taste buds, and for a bargain price for all their stuff, you owe yourself a visit to their fine establishment.
Third (and my personal fucking favourite) would have to be the newly refurbished Halal City; look, when it comes to Asian in Nasr City, literally any Uyghur eatery is the best there can be, but Halal City (situated at building 46, Imam Abu Hanifa street, literally two buildings from Nile Thai) seems to be the best of the bunch, offering signature thick-as-fuck hand-rolled chewy noodles that they make around the clock (you can hear them pound the hell out of them in the kitchen) with your choice of protein, potatoes, bell peppers and just auughhhghughh (i am at a loss for words), and that’s just the noodles, I am still exploring what Uyghur cuisine has to offer, with Chinese inspired dishes, mouth watering staples from Russia and Uzbekistan (think Pelmini and Shashlik) as well as a bit of Turkish thrown in the mix, it is ungodly spectacular.
There is a wealth of southeast Asian culinary experiences to be discovered in Nasr City’s 7th and 10th districts, and I urge you to put on your plaid shirt and go spelunking for some choice-ass noodles. Bit of a disclaimer: If you’re bold enough and have a thing for hardcore Uyghur, try going to Diarim directly across from Makram liquor store behind El 7adeeqa El Dawleya, you’ll know what I mean if and when you get there.
The “Creb” Contingent
Everybody has had a horrifically greasy "creb" at least once in their life. What most people don’t know though is the origin of the "creb" (it’s not a crepe anymore friendo); good old Nasr City is the original birthplace of what is perhaps Egypt’s premiere everything food; whether you’re coming down from a drinking session with the boys (or you just enjoy drinking alone in the car with Radiohead on ha ha ha not me), you need something to sate your hunger for the next two days or you decided that your body is more a gas station bathroom than a temple, a delightfully cheesy, crispy and well packed trifecta of terror is what your soul needs (but not your bowels, not at all).
I mean it has all your basic food groups; carbohydrates, proteins, dairy, cancer, love, nitrogen and mayonnaise. The first to offer the triangular treat was a mysterious fellow going by the moniker “7amada crepe,” but most would argue between either City Crepe on Makram Ebeid street or Crepiano City Center, I guess it’s kind of like Ebola; nobody knows how or why exactly it happened but it just came out of Africa. Although countless other establishments have sprouted to satisfy our tasty triangle needs, it takes a seasoned junk(ie) food aficionado (preferably from the city itself) to know who does it right. My favourites are Crepe Spicy and Spicy Crepe purely because of the names. So go forth, friendos, and journey to find the creb of destiny.
Straying away from the grease and cardiac arrest (and straight into the diabetes), 3arafat has a special place in the hearts of many, but much more in mine; that motherfucker has been there since Nasr City came into miserable existence, and throughout the years, they’ve been offering (in my not so humble opinion) some of the best authentic eastern sweets and confectioneries in all of Cairo. The finest they have to offer would have to be their Cheese Kunafa (Nabolseya); available in either 5eshna (rough) or Na3ma (soft), their konafa is the real Nabolsi deal, with the rough variety having a signature orange hue and resting on a bed of delicious stretchy and savory cheese, and the soft variant having this incredibly sweet biscuity taste to it, you can get either of which (or both together) in any quantity you want, from single plates to whole kilograms of the stuff.
3arrafat also sports this classic, comfy atmosphere; you walk in and there’s a table you can sit on to eat and watch TV or have a bottle of soda (which is the best thing), and you’re always surrounded by a variety of some of the best confectionary creations the middle-east has to offer. So if you feel like having a nice little sweet detour on your way from work or you just want to have dessert (or if you enjoy life like I try to do), head over to 3arafat, won’t you?
These are just a few of the places I’ve come across, friendos. I’ll ignore my sentiments about Nasr City (begrudgingly) for a minute and objectively level with you; it’s a stressful stretch of hell most of the time and it’s not exactly a tourism or adventure destination, but there’s so much more to see, so much more to explore and experience, the food alone is a pilgrimage for the taste buds, so try to give it a go, yeah?
And if you have your own recommendations for hidden gems, comfort foods or culinary experiences that need to see more exposure, get your thoughts out there on our social media comments and the site, spread the love, the flavours and the happiness.