I was craving Egyptian food here in the land of the famous Tea Party, stateside. I was also on the hunt for a nice place to take my friend, J, and her littlest Jr. to. Need I make my mission more explicit?
Although I have been here for a number of years, I only casually noticed that although I’ve been to Chinese, Thai, Taiwanese, Italian, French, American, Japanese, Korean, Iranian, Indian eateries, I’d never come across a place that served particularly Egyptian Food. Actually, besides home, I’ve never come across an Egyptian eatery anywhere outside of Egypt except a hole-in-the-wall in Grenoble, France. That just means I need to get out there, yes, I know.
Well, I googled and bing-ed and yelp-ed until I came to a disappointing conclusion: there was not an Egyptian restaurant to be found anywhere near me. I did find something interesting but I couldn’t tell exactly what it was – if it was a food production site, or a caterer, or a local market. So, I went to the site, called the number, and began conversing with a gentleman, trying to see if they served lunch.
In the first couple of minutes, I still didn’t know what Amir’s Natural Foods was. As I got to talking with who I soon found out was the owner, Amir Sedhom, himself, he said to give him an hour and a half and he would have lunch ready for us – and what did I want to eat? Kofta, mashi, falafel, cheese, hummous, salad, pita – foods and memories began to materialize in my imagination and we agreed I would head over there for a 12:30 lunch. He mentioned something about having us sit down for an Egyptian tasting in his office, and though I was slightly puzzled, the prospect of a home-style meal was satisfying enough.
When we arrived, we pulled up in Jamaica Plain to a place just off of the Sam Adams Brewery, and he was outside waiting for us. This was apparently not a restaurant, nor a cafe, but Amir’s family business production and packaging facility where he made a number of Egyptian foods for catering. He caters events, New England farmer’s markets and fairs, schools, eateries at the local hospitals in the Longwood Medical area, and even supplies to Trader Joe’s their Mid-East Feast. He also does food demonstrations to help teach people healthier food preparation.
We toured the small facility, and sampled fresh falafel from the Egyptian recipe back home. Then we went to his office, and he brought out a cart with tabouleh, falafel, pita, cucumber and tomato salad, rice pilaf, kofta (a ground meat and parsley), and a fragrant chicken dish.
Many people ask me,
What is Egyptian food?
Generally, I ask them if they’ve ever had Middle-Eastern food, like, pita and hummous, or falafel and tabouleh, before and some nod, and some look at me quizzically. One of Amir’s specialties and his pride and joy is falafel, Egyptian-style. This kind of falafel is flatter and crispier, which differs from the kind of falafel frequently in Middle-Eastern wraps. Freshly cooked and hot is the best way to have them. Seemingly subtle differences such as that with falafel distinguish one country’s traditional Middle-Eastern cuisine from another, often along with distinctions in flavoring and spices, for whole cuisines, or even similar dishes.
We then enjoyed tea and baklava for dessert, as well as pleasant hospitality. His journey as an entrepreneur sent him across the USA, from New York City, to Texas, to California, and back to Boston, which he now considers home. We chatted about families, faiths, foods, diets, nutrition, and health and enjoyed the time. It felt like we were having lunch with an old friend, even though we had just met.
A spontaneous phone call satisfied my craving for special, familiar food, and made us a new friend besides. We took home leftovers, stories, and a friendship and I’ll be sure to stop by again.