The koshariman's dilemma

Ahmed Maged
6 Min Read

Koshari dealers serving it cheap despite the high price of onions

Koshari outlets are having a hard time struggling to keep the price of that popular, nutritious and consumer-friendly dish within the reach of the low-income groups.While usually koshari is only rivaled by foul and falafel for a cheap meal, it could soon give way due to the rise in price of one of its main ingredients: onions.

Onions, an indispensable part of the taqlia, a kind of spicy sauce served on top of the dish, have shot up to LE 4 per kg to challenge the will of the most sincere koshari dealers who remain determined to sell it at the same rate.

Local dailies have reported that most of last year’s yield of onions was exported and the large reserves in the stores forced farmers to sell the staple at a loss. Consequently, not as many farmers were interested in growing them this year.

In reputed koshari outlets in Cairo, the three different servings, small, medium and large are priced respectively at LE 3, LE 4 and LE 5, while you can grab a bowl for LE 1-LE 1.5 at small outlets tucked away in the alleys of old Cairo.

The boys tasked with peeling and slicing mounds of onions, usually relegated to isolated corners and struggling through with red tearful eyes and running noses, have been asked to cut down on the size of pieces.

“What else could be done, regretted the owner of Lux located on Fouad Avenue. “If the price of onions that I used to get for 30 and 50 piasters goes that high, it is a real disaster, he says. “But I’ll never bring up the price. If I do, what else can ordinary people eat?

Sayed Hanafi, another outlet on Alfy Street, refuses to even consider a rise in price. He says, “This business usually has its ups and downs. Sometimes we make large gains. But in such circumstances I have to tolerate the slump so as to maintain the regular demand for the dish. He adds, “It’s an unwritten agreement between me and the clients, some of whom have nothing to eat other than koshari.

But Goha, another outlet on Alfy, was more realistic. “The rates of regular dishes, each served with a spoonful of taqlia on top, won’t change, he says. “The extra I will charge is for the extra taqlia that some people love, adds Goha.

Whoever tells you that the koshari price will not be affected will be telling you a half-truth. This year we suffered two blows: the first came when the price of tomatoes, also an essential part of the sauce, jumped to LE 5. The second was when onions became as expensive as tomatoes. Usually it was either the one or the other, explained Goha.

Now there is no balance. We will have to react, especially when the coming period is the low season that proceeds the mid-term holidays.

Hamdy, owner of the Hilton koshari outlet in Tahrir most frequented by tourists and the high-salaried, echoes the same view. “Inevitably we’ll have to do something about it. But let’s wait and see, says Hamdy. “For me it’s a different matter, for I can’t compromise on quality because of the kind of clients I have and my shop being in tourist guides.

The local press predicted that the situation might change by February when the new local and imported yields become available on the market. Currently one ton of onions sets koshari dealers back LE 3,000, while last year the same amount only cost LE 1,000.

“I prefer the imported because it is free of monopoly, says Hamdy. By the way, all our koshari ingredients are imported because the local produce is usually exported. “We can’t use red onions. They absorb a lot of oil, opined the Lux owner. Goha, on the other hand, opted for a happy medium, “Red onions could come in handy if mixed with white onions and garlic. But we have to be patient and know the price of the new yield before we start making suggestions.

Hussein, owner of a tiny outlet in Maadi, is not optimistic, “Not only onions, everything is becoming expensive. We’ve got to do something about it. Onions, tomatoes, chicken and meat. Things will keep going this way if we keep quiet and smile.

Share This Article
Leave a comment