Finding the Original Hawowshi, an Egyptian home kitchen that popped up during the pandemic, felt like a bit of a treasure hunt. Eventually, I wound my way behind a Citibank parking lot and encountered Amir Edward’s home on a Reseda side street. The Cairo-born chef was cooking in his open garage, which houses a Blackstone flat-top grill and an Ooni Koda 16 pizza oven to prepare two rarely seen street foods that people can pre-order through Instagram: hawawshi and feteer.
Egyptian cuisine draws on ancient culinary traditions, but hawawshi is a fairly recent phenomenon. Butcher Ahmed al-Hawawsh created this stuffed flatbread at Cairo marketplace Souk Al Tawfik in 1971. His signature dish has already become ubiquitous in Egypt, though it’s a rarity in Southern California, especially versions featuring house-baked, whole-wheat baladi (pita’s cousin).
Edward stuffs his homemade baladi with seasoned ground Harris Ranch beef and griddles each disc until crispy. He also offers a spicy version with chopped Serrano chiles for customers who prefer more heat. Each order (one for $6 or two for $10) comes with nutty tahini folded with “soothing” yogurt; tart pickled Persian cucumbers and turnips made using his grandmother’s recipe; and lamoon ma’asfar, punchy preserved lemons seasoned with black onion seed and red safflower strands. All three homemade condiments help temper the dish’s richness. He suggests dipping hawawshi in tahini and chasing bites with pickles. Yes, Edward spells hawawshi with an O, saying, “We put the WOW in Hawowshi.”
Edward is a culinary school grad who worked for the Cheesecake Factory for two years, but was let go due to COVID-19. He refocused on his heritage, pursuing his “lifelong dream of introducing Egyptian street food to the American palate.” He started with hawawshi and added feteer ($15) after taking a trip back home to Egypt. This flat pie with a flaky coat comes with a choice of savory or sweet fillings and has been a celebratory dish since pharaohs ruled the land.
The Original Hawowshi’s mix-cheese feteer features a shattering crust cradling a firm layer of mozzarella, Egyptian Rumi cheese, cheddar, and cream cheese that’s pocked with savory black Egyptian olives, juicy tomatoes, and green peppers. As he says, “The cheeses act as a glue that binds all the ingredients together to form the interior of the pie.”
Other feteers feature fillings like basturma (air-cured beef), tuna, or cream & honey. Edward also gained a following for a particularly indulgent feteer topped with Lotus Biscoff cookie butter, condensed milk, and biscoff crumbles.
The Original Hawowshi also offers a sogok sandwich ($6), basically an Egyptian take on sausage and peppers. He features chunks of sogok (spiced beef sausage) sautéed with green bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, and jalapeños, all nestled in a soft, crackly baguette he sources from a local Latin market.
Since Egyptian food isn’t well established in Southern California, some ingredients are hard to source, so he uses Armenian sujuk instead of Egyptian sogok, which has more paprika. He appreciates the alternative’s “smoky taste.”
Edward plans to dig deeper into his Egyptian repertoire by adding fava bean falafel, which is known as ta’ameya back home. As interest and awareness increases, so may the Original Hawowshi’s menu.
The Original Hawowshi; Reseda.
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