Koushary Quest

My husband had a hankerin’ for koushary the other night. Normally this wouldn’t be blog-worthy, but considering it sparked a 24-hour quest, it earned its blog-worthy-ness through sheer determination. To start, for those who are not familiar with koushary, it’s a typical Egyptian dish made with multiple types of pasta, rice, lentils or chickpeas, doused with fresh tomato sauce and topped with fried onions. It’s a carb-lovers delight and typically puts me into a happy food coma within minutes.

When he first mentioned his hankerin’ our instinct was to go to the online delivery service that serves most restaurants in the area. And when I say most, I mean it includes McDonald’s and PF Changs and Burger King and Papa Johns Pizza, not to mention all the Indian, Chinese and Iranian restaurants, and even some Lebanese/Middle Eastern restaurants. Knowing all this, it seemed a likely source. After some digging, he found a restaurant offering koushary, so we ordered and waited.

We haven’t ordered out a lot, but the few times we have, have taught us to settle in and wait comfortably. It almost always takes over an hour. This particular evening, however, stretched the bounds of waiting. After 90 minutes, they called to get directions; which my husband provided. Another 60 minutes passed and several more phone calls ensued, with my husband getting more and more annoyed. We live off the Gulf Road, next to a popular amusement park with a huge Ferris wheel and the name of our building is spelled out clearly on top in large well-lit letters. Even without a spotlight, we’re not that difficult to find. At the three-hour mark, my husband called them back and cancelled the order. We’ve never done that before and were curious if they’d still deliver it regardless. They didn’t. Part of me wonders if the poor delivery guy is still wandering aimlessly.

So dinner was leftovers and soup that night. However, having his hankerin’ unquenched, his quest for koushary continued the next day.

Our plan was to run some errands, go on a walk with the stroller, and then drive by a koushary restaurant and carry-out our dinner, thus avoiding three-hours of phone directions. But on our way out, we decided to see if we could find the restaurant first, since it was still daylight. After 30-minutes and multiple wayward turns, my husband announced that we were officially in “Wee Egypt.”

“How can you tell?” I asked

“Look, there’s ‘Cairo Pharmacy’.”

He was right, right next to Hadi’s Tailoring (a very Egyptian name).

Excellent, so assuming “Cairo Pharmacy” and “Hadi’s” were run by Egyptians and not by Indians or Pakistanis and further assuming that these Egyptians couldn’t live without koushary, we should be set.

It wasn’t quite that simple.

With a bit of prodding from me, my husband popped into the pharmacy to see if they were Egyptians who liked koushary. They were Indian. “But I know we’re in the right area,” he insisted. So we spent an hour driving up and down and around these back streets looking for any sign of koushary. The good thing about koushary restaurants is that they only serve koushary; that’s it, nothing else. So inevitably their shop sign will typically say “koushary” in it. Finally we were in an area that my husband was sure was near the restaurant (his koushary senses were tingling). So we parked and decided to whip out the stroller and stroll a bit. Easier said than done. As I’ve mentioned before, Kuwait is not particularly pedestrian-friendly, and this area in particular reminded me of the back streets of Cairo, which, while covered with pedestrians, were definitely not stroller friendly. Across the street from the parking was a bakery. Being too small for the stroller, I waited out side while my husband popped in. He not only got a lead on the koushary, he also managed to buy some of his favorite fresh-made date cookies.

“So, which way do we go?” I asked.

“Um, it’s like this way then right,” my husband said vaguely waving his arms about. Why can’t men ever get clear directions?

As I was eyeing the rubble-strewn alley he was indicating, a customer from the bakery was getting in his car and asked us if we needed directions. “We’re looking for Juha Koushary,” we told him.

“Ah, it’s just down the street here, turn left at the little circle and it’ll be about 30 meters down on your left.” Ahhh, clear directions (and I might point out that they were in the opposite direction of my husband’s waving arms). And in keeping with typically Arab hospitality, the customer even offered to drive us there. We declined, but thanked him profusely.

So we began our little trek, bumping and stumbling along with the stroller over rubble and broken sidewalks. At one corner we saw a whole gaggle of men sitting around little tables smoking shisha, “Definitely Egyptian,” whispered my husband. We knew we were close! And within ten minutes we were there! Juha Koushary, in all its minimalist glory with a few rickety wooden tables and plastic chairs outside, and a small galley-type counter area where my husband placed our order while watching them prepare it out of the vats of steaming pasta, rice, and lentils. Not wanting to deal with the stroller on the way back, I plunked my husband down on one of the plastic chairs with our daughter, the stroller, and our dinner and headed back to get the car. My decision in waiting versus walking didn’t have anything to do with concerns about my safety waiting alone, rather I feared that I’d never see my husband again (his sense of direction can be severely lacking and I didn’t want to wait for yet another hour for him to find the car and then find us again).

Without incident, I got back to the car, passing the shisha-smoking gaggle and the bakery, and returned to gather up the goods. By this point, our evening’s plans of errands, a walk, and carry-out were adjusted to, spend two-plus hours finding koushary and return home. Which we did.

I have to say that this was our first wandering, exploring, walking adventure in Kuwait and long overdue! We used to do this all the time in Cairo and they were inevitably some of my favorite outings. So I vow that this won’t be our last! And next time I’ll take more pictures, will bring the baby carrier and will leave the stroller, grocery list and any intentions of getting anything else accomplished at home.