North Texas Emigres Celebrating Egypt's Revolution Better Rely on Home Cooking

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Valentine's Day calls for chocolates and Champagne, but what's the proper meal for marking a peaceful democratic revolution?

Dallasites looking to express solidarity with protesters in Cairo have discovered traditional Egyptian food isn't readily available in North Texas. There's plenty of schawarma and tahini to be had, but meticulous celebrants craving ful or koshary are pretty much at the mercy of their own cooking skills.

"Egyptian food in Dallas?" asks Sam Merched, manager of Fadi's Mediterranean Grill in Frisco. "I don't think there's no Egyptian restaurant."

Merched's restaurant this weekend hosted a party for Egyptian-Americans celebrating the departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. More than 150 celebrants feasted on Fadi's regular menu, which fortuitously includes stewed okra.

"We did baby okra, that's what they like," Merched reports.

Local groceries catering to Middle Eastern populations are similarly lacking in Egypt-specific edibles. An employee who answered the phone at Haji Food Market and Deli in West Plano said he wasn't familiar with koshary, the tangy mess of ditali pasta, lentils, fried onions, vinegar and tomato sauce that's sometimes referred to as Egypt's national dish.

A pleasing panoply of textures, koshary is the Egyptian equivalent of Spaghetti-O's: It's ubiquitous, cheap and nostalgic. Every Cairo tourist eats a bowlful at Abou Tarek, but the stuff's sold at carts on crowded streets and simmers on home stovetops across the country.

Like most one-pot dishes, koshary's relatively simple to make: A few years back, Francis Lam reinterpreted the recipe for Gourmet. The necessary ingredients can be found at any area grocery store, including, possibly, Haji.

"What is the koshary?" the bewildered staffer who fielded my call asked. "I don't know. But, if you know, you just come in my store and you can see."

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