BY PALOMA LACY
The diner’s dilemma – eating out when you’re trying to lose weight is one many people have faced.
It’s certainly a challenge but one that Koshary Kitchen at Boxpark Croydon has risen to, admirably, with its build-your-own bowl, healthy eating concept.
Open since last summer, it dusted off lockdown last month and set about reintroducing Egypt’s national dish to London.
Classic Koshary brings the authentic taste of Cairo street food – a base of white rice, pasta and lentils, sprinkled with vinaigrette, fresh tomato sauce and fried onions.
Koshary Kitchen has brought the dish into the present day with super healthy additions.
Those looking to boost its health benefits further still, can swap the traditional base for brown rice or even a bed of salad for the no carb-ers out there.
Next up, choose a protein – spicy salmon chraimeh, beef kofta with tomato, chicken with carrots, prunes and walnuts or aubergine, red pepper and chickpea stew.
This is bowl food at its best – warm, hearty and thoroughly satisfying.
Its nutritious credentials are further boosted by a range of delicious toppings adding fresh flavours, including salad, feta cheese, pickled cucumber, chill-roasted pumpkin and super food staples, pomegranate seeds and chilli.
The salmon version I tried was unbelievably good, packed with warm and smoky spices, evocative of North African cuisine.
Tasting global flavours is so important given that foreign travel is not easy to negotiate at present.
I was pleased to awaken my palate, and travel with my mind, taking me right into the hustle and bustle of Cairo’s back streets as I enjoyed my bowl.
The toppings listed above were precisely the ones I chose – fresh and zesty and proof positive that comfort food needn’t be fattening.
If you want to run in and grab and go, there is the signature bowls menu, with four dishes to choose from.
Classic Koshary; Hot Pink; Sweet Chick; Low Carb; and What’s Your Beef?
They between £6.50 and £9.50 for a medium portion.
Go large for additional £2.
Are you unfamiliar with koshary?
That’s probably because Egyptian food doesn’t have a massive presence, outside the familiar central London enclaves.
Croydon has chef/proprietor Ramy Abdelrehim, aged 36, to thank for bringing it to the masses, which he did because he is so passionate about his homeland’s national dish.
Like all chefs, Mr Abdelrehim’s a massive foodie at heart and that love shines through with every word uttered.
He talks of mooching the food markets of any number of countries.
He speaks of the long history between the UK and Egypt, the connections between the two nations and their fondness for visiting each other.
Ramy’s own relationship with the UK goes back decades, with numerous holidays spent here, before moving full-time in 2010 to study hospitality.
Koshary Kitchen started in a loft apartment in Kings Cross in 2015, with Mr Abdelrehim serving customers with delivery only, and doing rather well in the City’s corporate lunchtime trade.
So why establish a business in Croydon?
He has long had a soft spot for the town, having spent many summers there as a boy at a sports camp at Royal Russell School, in Addington.
He also wanted to serve people from all backgrounds and not just ex-pats in the North African enclaves of London so Croydon it was.
His restaurant is part of a merry band of 40 under one roof at Boxpark Croydon, right next to East Croydon railway station.
Koshary Kitchen, Boxpark Croydon, Unit 17, CR0 1LD.
Open from noon daily.
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