What is hawawshi?
This mixture is flavored with spices such as cumin and paprika and it may also contain chili. This flat bread is topped with the meat stuffing and then baked in an oven.
Hawawshi is generally sold as street food, but it can be easily prepared at home for breakfast or dinner.
Hawawshi can be eaten on its own, on the go or with a salad and tahini to which lemon juice, garlic and pickles are added.
Hawawshi is a true institution, and is in a way can be considered the Egyptian hamburger.
How to make hawawshi
The basic bread recipe for hawawshi is no different from most Middle Eastern bread recipes.
To make it, you have to mix flour with sugar, yogurt, oil, yeast and hot milk. At the beginning, the dough is very sticky and difficult to work with, but a workable dough is gradually obtained which is then left to rise.
During this time, you can prepare the stuffing with ground meat cooked in oil with onions, parsley, bell peppers and chopped tomatoes. Add cumin and paprika powder which add a delicious flavor to these sandwiches.
Once the dough has risen, it can be separated into portions and rolled onto a work surface. The discs are then stuffed with meat, preferably cold at this stage of the preparation.
The overhang of dough is then folded back onto itself to perfectly seal the stuffing. The hawawshi thus formed can be slightly flattened, brushed with oil and placed in a very hot oven.
Cooking it makes the outside crispy, the fatty parts of the beef contained in the ground mixture impregnate the dough inside which is therefore soft and fragrant with spices. The hawawshi can be halved or quartered and eaten hot or cold.
Some restaurants quickly fry the sandwiches in a pan with oil to make them even crispier and to reheat them instantly.
What is the origin of hawawshi?
The hawawshi is the creation of an Egyptian butcher named Ahmed al-Hawawsh who gave his name to this sandwich in 1971. From his stall in the Al-Tawfik souk in Caïre, he has started to sell his sandwiches and he immediately found success. The hawawshi sandwich was born and it quickly spread across the country.
Since the death of Ahmed al-Hawawsh, the sandwich has become the specialty of the Sharqia region in the Nile Delta. Ahmed al-Hawawsh also marketed his own blend of spices and seasoned meat in his butcher shop so people could prepare hawawshi at home.
What are the hawawshi variants?
In Alexandria in Egypt, hawawshi is called baladi and the spices that flavor the meat may differ.
Hawawshi has spread to all the countries of the Middle East as well as to North Africa. In the Levant, it is prepared with saj bread (also called markook bread) and it contains chili in large quantity. In Algeria, its name is muhajib and it is eaten with a salad, a yogurt or a soup.
The idea of stuffing bread with meat is very old, and can be found in traditional recipes such as empanadas and pastels, all from the Arab world and whose tradition has become popular in Spain, France and the New World.
In Lebanon, there is another sandwich close to hawawshi called arayess. However, it is made from ground lamb, not beef. These are cooked on a hot plate or grill and not in the oven.
- 4 cups flour , sifted
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 cup hot milk
- ½ cup plain yogurt
- ½ cup vegetable oil
- 2 lb ground beef
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion , chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 2 tomatoes , peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes
- 1 green bell pepper , cut into small cubes
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the flour, sugar, baking powder and active dry yeast and mix well.
- Dig a well in the center of this mixture and add the yogurt and oil.
- While kneading at medium speed, pour the milk gradually, then add the salt and knead until obtaining a homogeneous dough.
- Cover and let the dough rest at room temperature and away from drafts for 1 hour and 30 minutes.
- Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a pan.
- Brown the onion for 1 minute.
- Add the ground meat and all the rest of the ingredients, then mix well.
- Cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Set aside.
- Dust flour on a work surface, then divide the dough into 12 pieces and form balls.
Roll each ball thinly using a rolling pin, to a thickness of about ½ inch.
- Place 4 tablespoons of the minced meat mixture in the center.
- Fold the dough to close the dumpling in the shape of a semicircle.
- Repeat this process with the rest of the meat and dough.
- Preheat the oven to 350 F.
- Brush the stuffed buns with a little olive oil.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
- Serve the hot hawawshi with a green salad and tahini.