“Anything sold at The Original Hawowshi has to be a flavor bomb; something you’ve never had before,” says 23-year-old Amir Edward.
Driven by a passion for food, the young chef has managed to bring a unique slice of Egypt all the way to his hometown in Los Angeles through a new hawowshi venture that began in his garage.
Hawowshi is an Egyptian street food that can be described as an oriental Egyptian burger. It consists of spiced minced meat in Egyptian baladi bread, which is then fried or grilled before serving.
A Lifelong Appreciation of Food
“I grew up around food and a lot of cooking, so food was a sacred thing in my life,” Edward recalls with a smile.
While many Egyptians can make similar claims, Edward’s case is particularly unique and a love of food seemingly does run in the family; during their time in Egypt, his grandmother ran a food business from her home, while his father currently owns a restaurant in Cairo called The Edward’s.
His grandmother has mastered the art of Egyptian cuisine, cooking everything from molokheyya and deek rumy (turkey) to kobeba and wara’ enab. At any given day, there would be at least three different dishes on the table for the family to devour.
Edward admired how his grandmother cared about developing her recipes and taking her family’s opinion on her cooking instead of only relying on family recipes that get passed down from generation to generation.
“It’s been a blessing growing up around [people who appreciate] food from both sides of my family,” he says.
With that in mind, it was no surprise when Edward decided to enroll in culinary school and began taking on jobs in the food sector. But when he lost his job due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it put his career in perspective.
“I asked myself ‘why do I always cook international foods and rely on my mom and grandma for Egyptian food?’ and so I thought I’d try it,” he says.
Feeling inspired, he wanted to try and offer street food that he couldn’t find in Los Angeles, so he decided on hawowshi. While starting off was a difficult endeavor, Edward wasn’t alone; he partnered with his friend Baraa Al Qaseer, and sought the support of his mother, grandmother, and siblings, who were ready to support him the entire way as his team.
“I’m very thankful for them. There’s a lot of love involved in The Original Hawowshi, and we do it because we love each other and we love food,” he says.
The Original Hawowshi
“The name ‘The Original Hawowshi’ came to be before any food was made; it came as a funny thought about how non-Egyptians could find the word hawawshi easy to pronounce, so it’s ha-‘wow’-shi,” Edward tells Egyptian Streets.
One might wonder why he chose hawowshi when there are many other popular Egyptian street foods such as fuul, taamia, or koshari, but Edward responds simply, saying: “I missed it. I always remembered how it tastes great hot or even cold the next day.”
When pondering where to begin, Edward realized he needed to make baladi bread from scratch since it is unavailable in Los Angeles and he didn’t want to settle for similar alternatives that would compromise the flavor.
“You can’t make authentic hawowshi without baladi bread,” he explains. He began making his own bread at home, even managing to find the radda (bran) to add to it for maximum authenticity. Afterwards, he began researching hawowshi recipes until he came up with his own.
After perfecting the recipe down to the last ounce, it was time to delight his fellow Egyptians living in Los Angeles with the prospect of authentic hawowshi so far away from home, so Edward began bringing samples to friends, family, and former coworkers. “I’d tell my friends ‘if you really like it, tell your mom about it’,” he explains, and soon he began selling his hawowshi to entire families.
His hard work paid off when he was featured in LA Mag and later appeared on TV to cook his hawowshi live for the American audience.
An Addition Inspired by an Egyptian Food Chain
A while after The Original Hawowshi was up and running, Edward came to Egypt for a visit and passed by one of Egypt’s largest oriental food chains, impressed by how one restaurant could offer everything from fuul and taamia to feteer and shawarma.
He stayed around the restaurant for hours; simply observing how each station operated. “Then I reached the feteer station and watched the chef shape the dough into a perfect sphere – and something clicked,” he recalls.
Earlier, he’d gotten a pizza oven to delve into pizza-making as a hobby, but after the visit to Egypt decided to try and make feteer instead.
“When I come up with a [culinary] idea, I think about how it can appeal to people so I can sell it, but so many [people in the US] sell pizza already,” he explains.
The biggest challenge that presented itself was finding the right ingredients, such as sojouk, pastrami, and roumi cheese, but Edward utilized his problem-solving skills; he began using Armenian sausage in lieu of sojouk and found importers for the latter two ingredients.
And with that, The Original Hawowshi’s small menu grew larger – but it is only the beginning.
“I want to bring Egyptian culture to America, and I want to present the Egyptian street food palate to the Los Angeles palate,” Edward says excitedly.
He is soon planning on buying a food truck that can move around locally, and eventually visit Hollywood and other areas. Once he successfully expands The Original Hawowshi’s presence, he strives to expand his menu.
“I’d first like to expand with kebda (liver) in a way that isn’t too strange for the market – I want to figure out a way where the person eating it will wonder if it’s kebda or steak,” he explains.
His hope is for The Original Hawowshi to have a hawowshi section, a feteer section, and a grills section – but his main goal is to get as creative as possible, explaining that “food is always evolving; it depends on how you’ll jump on the train and keep up.”
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