Prescript: “Cairo Gems” is a new gimmick TBE is developing in conjunction with the unknowing city of Cairo, in which we highlight some of our favorite spots. We stole the idea from “MA,” “JJ” or “JL” or some combination thereof, so all due respect to them. Our idea is to self-publish a book with our text and luscious photos by our photographer or maybe this fellow, TBE’s portraitist-in-residence. We will then sell the rights to AUC, so they can include our guidebook in the orientation packets distributed to study abroad students. Enjoy!
El-Ebiary: The name alone conjures up visions of Moorish Spain, or a place where birds are kept, perhaps in gilded cages. Alas, it is neither of those things. Instead it is a store, or rather two stores with one name and two other stores separating them.
To find it, one strolls down Shagarat al-Dor in Zamalek away from 26 July. When you see a girl’s legs dangling from what might be an airshaft on your right hand side, reflect on what you just saw as you proceed to the next store, then enter. There are a lot of housewares and kitchenware stuffed in this spot, which can be disconcerting, especially for those of you who, like TBE, have a delicate constitution. Do not be deterred, o ye of little patience for overstimulation.
Here’s a little El-Ebiary anecdote: A couple weeks ago TBE was on a quest for a springform pan, a whisk and some wooden spoons. For reasons unrelated we found ourselves in Alfa, and so decided to check out the cookwares section. Having decided not to impugn our kitchen’s integrity with wooden spoons topped with ersatz vegetables or wholly inadequate whisks, we stalked out, swearing never again to even consider the idea of betraying our sacred love for El-Ebiary.
It being Sunday, El-Ebiary was closed that day, but we soon found ourselves again on that isla bonita. Following the instructions above, we entered El-Ebiary. Alas, no wooden spoons were available, and we judged the springform pans on offer to be too big for our planned use. Being the making of cheesecake, if you must know.
We did pick up a beautiful whisk, though. (Trivia break: Is whisk the only onomatopoeic kitchen utensil?)
Several friends having advised us that our quest for the perfect springform pan would go unfulfilled in Cairo, we again headed for El-Ebiary to buy the larger-than-preferred version. Immediately upon entering the store, a sales person approached us, demanding to know whether we were, in fact, the persons who had been inquiring about wooden spoons the previous day. Replying in the affirmative, he returned with three peerless specimens, which have been in our service ever since.
After the initial ecstasy of having found the perfect wooden spoons subsided, we returned to the wearing a slight, well-nigh imperceptible thizz face, owing to the prospect of buying that prodigious springform, about the size Jabba the Hutt would probably use if he for some reason decided to make cheesecake.
We turned around for one last look at the bounteous aisles, and there before us was a cornucopia of springing forms, the likes of which can certainly not be found in Cairo or perhaps all of Egypt. We immediately seized upon a 26-centimeter version, which turned out a beautiful, crackless cheesecake just days later.
The message is clear. To all those who toss and turn at night wondering if they will ever find a semi-obscure piece of cooking paraphanelia, TBE commands: “Go ye forth to El-Ebiary.”
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Postscript: The cheesecake recipe TBE used can be found here. We omitted the cream cheese topping with no ill effects. You should probably par-bake the crust (see directions in recipe comments). We used baladi eggs, which due to their higher yolk-to-white ratio gave the cheesecake a yellowish tinge but did not to our knowledge corrupt the cheesecake’s delicate flavor. Cream cheese is rather expensive in Cairo, rendering the recipe as a whole rather expensive. Nonetheless, we guarantee the results will be better than others available around town, which for some reason always taste of plastic to us.
Other recipes we’ve made recently that are easily accomplished in Cairo:
The other part of El-Ebiary deals primarily in electrical appliances. The size of TBE’s test kitchen agitates against us filling our kitchen with unwieldy corded apparati, but we are fairly certain that one will find many wonderful appliances there.