Koshari: The Ultimate Vegan, Egyptian Comfort Food
The best way to enjoy a carb is layered on top of other carbs
I am forever haunted by a Goop recipe for “Super-Healthy Kosheri,” originally featured in Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook It’s All Good: Delicious Recipes That Will Make You Look Good and Feel Great. I have fond memories of eating koshari — the national dish of Egypt, a meal comprised of rice, macaroni, and lentils, topped with tomato sauce and crispy fried onions — at my Egyptian grandmother’s house. But I could barely recognize the Goop version, which features the most non-traditional, blasphemous ingredients imaginable (quinoa? cinnamon?!).
Don’t get me wrong — I love crunchy health food. The bulk of my diet as a vegan consists of fresh fruits and raw vegetables, but eating koshari isn’t a time to think about whether you “look good and feel great,” which is precisely why I love it so much. It’s best enjoyed by plowing through several bowls while dressed in your comfiest pants, passing out on the couch for a two-hour nap in the aftermath of the ensuing carb coma, then waking up and doing it all over again. In the spirit of doing right by my ancestors, I have considered it my duty ever since to redeem koshari from this clean-eating adulteration and introduce to the uninitiated this perfect food in all its unabashed, carb-laden glory.
The individual ingredients that comprise koshari are humble and unassuming — plain boiled macaroni, rice, lentils, tomato sauce, and crispy fried onions. And yet, due to some sort of Egyptian culinary alchemy, layering them in a bowl and mixing everything together produces the most heavenly result possible. Koshari is the ultimate comfort food — nourishing, delicious, cheap, and filling.
When I went vegan at thirteen years old — along with my mother and sister — it was a seamless transition. I did it for the animals, and never felt like I was missing out on any foods or experiences. But my Italian father, Egyptian grandmother, and the rest of my extended family — suddenly faced with three new vegans — reacted to the news not unlike a canonical moment in My Big Fat Greek Wedding when Toula’s aunt, upon discovering that Toula’s boyfriend, Ian, is a vegetarian, emphatically and indignantly asks, “What do you mean he don’t eat no meat?!”…