Drinks

Drinks

By
Suzanne Zeidy
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742708027
Photographer
Jonathan Gregson

Sugar cane

Every street in Egypt seems to have its own little stand-up juice joint, open to the passing trade and traffic and identifiable by the strings of fruit and bags of oranges that mark the open entrance. The ebb and flow of the Egyptian juice bar reflects the rhythms of the day, from children on their way to school to workers on their way home, while the drinks menu also oscillates with the seasons. Purple hibiscus juice and freshly squeezed orange are nearly always available, while guava, mango, vibrant red strawberry or jade-green melon juices are found when ripe, along with each bar’s own fruit cocktail, a constantly evolving combination of banana, apple, mango and seasonal fruit. Take your choice, pay at the till, and then wait at the bar for your juice to be made to order.

However, the most popular drink of all in these juice bars is ‘aseer asab’, the milky mint-green juice obtained from crushed sugar cane. Pleasantly, not sickly, sweet, this is a drink that is supposed to be a little sugary treat, a cheap pick-me-up at just one Egyptian pound (or thereabouts) a glass. Even more popular in the high heat of summer, the juice is wonderfully hydrating and cooling, the sugar providing instant energy to replace lost fluids. Egypt’s juice shops first began selling sugar cane juice about fifty years ago, when sugar cane became abundant in Egypt, cultivated in the fertile fields of Upper Egypt that run alongside the Nile.

At the centre of every juice shop is the big box-like electric sugar cane juicer, usually out on view to attract passers-by to the relentless activity that surrounds it. Long bamboo-like sticks of peeled sugar cane are pushed in whole through a round opening in the front, the noisy machine then runs the stalks between its steel rollers, pressing down on the sappy pulp inside and squeezing out the juice. The liquid sugar cane rushes out of a small nozzle at the bottom of the machine, passing into a metal sieve over a large silvery pail, which often contains a block of ice to help the metal instantly chill the fresh juice.

Customers wait standing at the stainless steel bar, often a tap at one end spouting out water to rinse the glasses, the bar slightly sloping to drain the water away. The juice is poured at a height from a smaller pail into a tall glass to give it its customary white foamy top and the juice is chugged down, often at surprising speed, at the bar. A sweet indulgence in someone’s day.

Recipes in this Chapter

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