Koshary King food truck brings locally rare Egyptian cuisine to North Campus
Headlined by its garlicky namesake dish, this SoHud purveyor serves delicious, inexpensive fare with flavors that often overlap with Middle Eastern and Greek offerings
I can count the number of local eateries that highlight the cuisine of Egypt on one finger. This adds up to Koshary King, a lovable food truck named after the meatless but heavy-duty and boldly flavored mélange frequently called the national dish of Egypt.
Bonus: Koshary King borders a makeshift patio — with plant-decorated, sectioned-off picnic tables — in an area often abuzz with activities.
This would be the intersection of Hudson Street and Summit Street, in the bohemian-friendly North Campus neighborhood nicknamed “SoHud” (as in “south of Hudson”). There, in front of a mural emblazoned with “SoHud,” Koshary King functions as the de facto concession stand for a recurring open-air market and neo-hippie street fair (held primarily on weekend afternoons) anchored by the freewheeling SoHud Collective, a self-described “clothing store in a bus.”
Koshary King — which keeps long, regular hours — has also been pleasing many visitors to Mystic Market, an intriguing, usually bi-weekly evening event likewise hosted on-site by SoHud Collective. At Mystic Market you can expect a provocative selection of garments, jewelry, arts, entertainment and, according to its Instagram feed, “vintage oddities, visionaries and metaphysical supplies.” I wouldn't argue if you said the only thing missing from this “do your own thing,” boutique-in-a-bus scene was Ken Kesey, the late Merry Prankster author of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
Delicious and inexpensive food certainly isn't missing with Koshary King around. As typified by its namesake offering — koshary, which has strong Egyptian street-food roots — the food truck’s dishes will generally seem familiar to, but a little different from, the fare served in local Middle Eastern and Greek eateries.
The signature koshary, which is quite garlicky (a Koshary King commonality), is like mujadara on steroids. In addition to the core components of mujadara — a classic preparation of lentils, rice and crispy fried onions — it has chickpeas, capellini, macaroni, lemon juice, vinegar, tomato sauce and tomatoes. The irresistible result is a mammoth dish (the $9 large easily feeds two) that balances comforting ingredients with acidic and fragrant flourishes (cumin, coriander and paprika are seasoning mainstays).
The less-massive chicken over rice ($8) was another nicely priced party in my mouth: turmeric-yellow rice topped with seared chicken enlivened by gyro-like seasonings, puffy-yet-crisp griddled pita strips and a mayo-based garlic sauce.
I liked the meat over rice ($9) even more. It resembled the chicken entrée, but starred juicy, shawarma-like halal beef strips with steak-evoking notes and more-tomatoey rice.
Falafel fans will be rewarded with a tasty pita construction so large that it should be called a “pouch sub” rather than a pocket sandwich. With its distinctly tangy, crisp falafel, good garnishes, great price and value ($7), it exemplifies Koshary King’s appeal.
Ditto for Koshary King’s tahini-rich yet lively, non-cliché hummus and baba ghanoush ($5 each; served with warm pita), which arrive enhanced by baharat (a zesty-sweet spice mix). Still, my favorite dip was the rustic mesaka’a ($6) — tangy, concentrated tomatoes merged with chopped-and-fried eggplants and peppers.
Whereas mesaka’a is loosely related to moussaka, Egyptian macarona bechamel is nearly identical to Greek pastitsio. And the lasagna-like Egyptian casserole is a Koshary King weekend special ($10) worth a specially timed visit.
Timing can also be important for house-made desserts. Two coveted, syrup-drenched $5 pastries — basboosa (nutty and nubby semolina cake) and kunafa (shredded wheat with a bouncy cheese center) — often sell out early.
Obtaining the soothing, vanilla-scented, less-sweet Egyptian rice pudding ($5) was easier. Because I recently enjoyed that milky delight after the sun gave way to twinkling electric lights — just as someone tinkling Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” gave way to bus-emanating “chill” dance music — I noticed a guy back by the clothes-shop bus gyrating atop glowing stilts. He looked curiously like Ken Kesey.
Southwest corner of Summit and Hudson streets, University District