Photo courtesy of Xin Tian — I’m just modeling here.
One of the main benefits of studying abroad is, of course, cultural exchange, which I’ve been experiencing a lot of since my arrival in Menton. I’m in France, studying at a French university that specializes in Middle Eastern studies, on a campus that has students hailing from all over the Middle East and North Africa, all corners of Europe, as far away as Singapore, Mexico, and India, and a number from different parts of France. One of my favorite parts of this geographical amalgam is the wide range of cuisines that are represented — when I walk into the kitchen at Villa Jasmin I have an equal chance of finding someone preparing couscous, baking a quiche, chopping vegetables for a stir fry, or spreading liverwurst on a piece of bread (though to be honest, there’s always a much higher chance that I’ll find someone defrosting something in the microwave; we have a Picard right around the corner). So when a friend of mine asked if I would be interested in making koshary, an Egyptian staple, to raise money for our campus’s branch of Amnesty International, I jumped at the chance.
I don’t have any pictures of the preparation process, mainly because things moved too fast for me to have time to stop and snap photos. Koshary is a very basic dish, made with commonly found food and easy to prepare, but there are a LOT of different steps involved. There are separate preparations for the grains and lentils, the pasta, the tomato sauce, the fried onions, and the sour sauce. I’ll try to break everything down in a non-confusing way, but in the end I’m so glad I had the chance to make it myself; with dishes like this, the best way to learn how to make them is through experience.