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埃及的沙拉三明治是世界上最好吃的吗?

Does Egypt have the best falafel in the world?
埃及的沙拉三明治是世界上最好吃的吗?

It’s Wednesday afternoon in downtown Cairo, and the usual smorgasbord of humanity is going about its daily business. From sharp-suited businesspeople single-mindedly weaving through the capital’s notorious traffic to young men on bicycles perching wooden trays of fresh bread on their heads. Everyone, it seems, has somewhere to be.

周三下午,在开罗市中心,人们像往常一样忙着自己的日常事务。西装革履的商人目不旁视地穿梭于开罗喧哗吵闹的交通人流中,骑自行车的年轻人把盛着新鲜面包的木托盘顶在头上。每个人都在各自忙碌着。

Down a small alleyway in the Abdeen neighbourhood, I marvel at the graceful, 19th- to 20th-Century Belle Époque stylings of a faded apartment building, the intricate balconies and wooden shutters offering a glimpse of life in this teeming city many decades ago.

沿着阿布迪恩(Abdeen)街区的一条小巷子走下去,能看到一栋褪了色的公寓楼,整体风格十分优雅,是19世纪至20世纪“美好时代”(Belle Epoque)的那种风格,错落有致的阳台和木百叶窗让我得以一瞥几十年前这座熙熙攘攘的城市的生活。

Opposite sits a small, metal food cart. A counter runs around it, offering somewhere for patrons to hurriedly eat their meal, and tins of corned beef – used in sandwiches or mixed with eggs – are stacked with care and uniformity on the top shelf. Below are eggs, metal pots, bags of the nation’s much-loved aish baladi (a type of whole-wheat flatbread) and a few plates containing taameya, Egypt’s glorious, but underappreciated, version of falafel. Many food lovers rate it as the best falafel in the world.

公寓对面停着一辆小小的金属餐车,周围环绕着柜台,顾客能在这儿匆忙用餐。柜台最上面的架子上整齐堆放着罐头腌牛肉(夹在三明治里或和鸡蛋一起吃),下面是鸡蛋、金属锅和几袋深受埃及人喜爱的全麦大饼,还有几盘做好的沙拉三明治。这是埃及著名的沙拉三明治,但它的美味却被低估了。许多美食爱好者认为它是世界上最好吃的沙拉三明治。

The cart’s owner, Amir, smiles beneath his greying moustache as he works. He removes taameya mix from a large metal bowl, forms it into small discs using his fingertips and drops them into boiling oil. His hands are almost a blur; each disc takes about a second to make.

餐车的主人阿米尔胡子灰白,工作时面带微笑。他从一个大的金属碗里取出沙拉三明治配料,用指尖搓成小圆球,然后放进滚烫的油锅里。他的手快得像翻飞中的影子,搓一个圆球大约只需要一秒钟的时间。

A few minutes later I’m presented with the finished article: piping hot taameya served inside aish baladi with nothing more than tomatoes, lettuce and a drizzle of tahini. On the side sit crunchy pickled vegetables in a riot of colours – the highlight of which is whole green chillies caked in chilli powder, cumin and salt. The medium-hot chilli adds a welcome bite to proceedings, yet is offset by the bitter nuttiness of the attendant cumin.

几分钟后,我就看到了成品:全麦面饼包着滚烫的沙拉三明治,里面有西红柿、生菜和少量的芝麻酱,旁边放着各色的腌菜,脆脆的,最引人注目的是绿色的辣椒,上面撒着辣椒粉、孜然和盐。适中的辣味让口感更好,但随之而来的孜然味又很好的中和了辣味。

The taameya sandwich is a lesson in perfect simplicity. Nearby countries such as Syria and Lebanon have a reputation for incorporating greater flair into their falafel sandwiches, experimenting with different fillings and sauces, such as coleslaw, tomato herb salad and pickled turnips. These no doubt have their place but, in my opinion, they’d be hard-pressed to beat the Egyptian version. In fact, falafel cooked by Egyptian fast-casual chain Zööba won ‘best falafel’ at 2016’s London Falafel Festival in Borough Market, beating Palestinian-Lebanese competitors and leading to more ‘best in the world’ talk.

沙拉三明治完美体现了简约的风格。叙利亚和黎巴嫩等邻近国家,将更多的风味融入沙拉三明治并因此而闻名,他们尝试了不同的馅料和酱料,比如凉拌卷心菜、番茄香草沙拉和腌萝卜。这些尝试都有独特的味道,但在我看来,它们很难与埃及版沙拉三明治相比。事实上,埃及快餐连锁店Zooba烹制的沙拉三明治,在2016年伦敦博罗市场沙拉三明治节上,就击败了来自巴勒斯坦和黎巴嫩的竞争对手,赢得了"最佳沙拉三明治"的称号,并引发了更多关于“世界最佳”的讨论。

Much of that is thanks to a certain idiosyncrasy in the way Egyptians make their falafel. Gone are the chickpeas so ubiquitous in most other countries; here, the main ingredient is broad beans, which fry better and result in a lighter, fluffier take on the popular snack. Along with garlic, onion and coriander seeds, the Egyptian mix also incorporates a greater number of fresh herbs and vegetables – such as parsley, coriander and leeks – than its neighbours’, producing a pale green interior and greater depth of flavour.

这种成功要归于埃及人制作沙拉三明治的特殊方式。鹰嘴豆在大多数国家已经消失得无影无踪。在埃及,沙拉三明治的主要成分是蚕豆,而且炸得更好、更蓬松,是当地流行的小吃。除了洋葱、大蒜和香菜籽,相比起邻国,埃及的沙拉三明治加入了更多新鲜蔬菜和草本植物,比如:欧芹、香菜和韭菜,使得三明治看起来更翠绿,味道也更浓郁。

“I totally agree that the best falafel in the world comes from Egypt, and I’ve certainly told people who went to Egypt that,” said Claudia Roden, the famed culinary anthropologist and serial Middle Eastern cookbook author. “It’s all down to the taste and texture. I think broad beans… have a better texture than chickpeas, because they’re softer and creamier, plus the Egyptian version has more herbs, which makes it greener. I think the overall flavouring is much better.”

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著名的烹饪学家、中东烹饪书籍系列作家罗登(Claudia Roden)说:“我完全同意,世界最好的沙拉三明治来自埃及,我肯定也告诉过去过埃及的人。这完全取决于口味和质地。我觉得蚕豆比鹰嘴豆的口感更好,因为它们更柔软绵滑,而且埃及的沙拉三明治里的蔬菜更多,看起来更翠绿。整体口味要好得多。”

The Egyptian love affair with broad beans – also known as fava beans – runs deep. Along with taameya and bread, the country’s other staple dish is ful medames, in which broad beans are stewed for more than 12 hours and mixed with garlic, olive oil, cumin and lemon juice. Taameya and ful medames are primarily breakfast dishes, though their unswerving popularity means they are often consumed at any time of day.

埃及人对蚕豆的喜爱由来已久。除了沙拉三明治和面包,埃及的另一道主食是富尔-梅达梅斯(ful medames)。这道菜要把蚕豆炖足12个小时,并与大蒜、橄榄油、孜然和柠檬汁混合。埃及人主要是早餐吃沙拉三明治和富尔-梅达梅斯,但当地人实在是太喜欢吃这两种东西了,即使不是早餐也会吃。

In his book, Beans: A History, food historian Ken Albala writes that eating broad beans in Egypt “seems to be a conscious act of nationalism. Ful medames is an expression of identity for modern Egyptians who choose to resist the onslaught of contemporary breakfast foods; it is a way to remember who they are.”

食品历史学家阿尔巴拉(Ken Albala)在他的著作《豆子的历史》(Beans: A History)中写道,在埃及吃蚕豆“似乎是一种有意识的民族主义行为”。吃富尔梅达梅斯是现代埃及人表达身份的一种方式,以抵制现代早餐带来的冲击。也是一种记住他们是谁的方式。"

Exactly when and why the broad bean took hold in Egypt, while most of its neighbours became enamoured with the chickpea, remains something of a mystery.

蚕豆究竟是何时以及为何在埃及生根发芽的至今仍是一个谜,埃及周边的邻国却对鹰嘴豆情有独钟。

Both ingredients feature in a medieval Egyptian cookbook titled Treasure Trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table: A Fourteenth-Century Egyptian Cookbook, though the chickpea surprisingly features in more recipes.

这两种食材都出现在一本中世纪埃及烹饪书中,书名为《餐桌上的宝藏:一本四世纪的埃及食谱》(Treasure trove of Benefits and Variety at the Table: a four - century Egyptian cookbook),但出人意料的是鹰嘴豆的出现频率更高。

Nawal Nasrallah, the researcher and food writer who translated the book into English, speculates that this is due to chickpeas being considered a higher-class ingredient at that time. Broad beans were seen as a poor man’s food, and, in medieval times as today, cookbook authors would have wanted to show off their most elegant dishes.

纳斯鲁拉(Nawal Nasrallah)是把这本书翻译成英文的研究人员和美食作家。他推测,这是因为鹰嘴豆在当时被认为是一种高级食材,蚕豆则被视为穷人的食物。不管是在中世纪还是今天,烹饪书的作者都想炫耀他们优雅的菜肴。

Although both ingredients do feature in most regional cuisines, she said that Egypt’s subsequent embrace of broad beans over chickpeas could simply be down to availability.

虽然这两种食材在多数地方菜系中都出现过,但她说,埃及后来之所以更喜欢蚕豆而不是鹰嘴豆,可能只是因为蚕豆更易获得。

“I think it depends on what you have and what grows abundantly… I think chickpeas are more abundant in the Levant, which why they use them. Whereas from ancient times, broad beans were used more in northern Africa… It’s all about economics. It’s cheap, it’s available. In fact, they say that broad beans are ‘the kebab of the poor’.”

“我认为这取决于拥有的资源,以及哪些食材长得更茂盛,鹰嘴豆在黎凡特地区更充足,这就是为什么他们要用鹰嘴豆。然而从古代开始,北非地区更多使用蚕豆,这一切都与经济有关。蚕豆很便宜且更容易买到。生活中人们常说蚕豆是穷人的烤肉串。”

This link to ancient Egypt is regularly cited as key to the broad bean’s enduring popularity in the country. Everyday Egyptians will trumpet ful medames and taameya as ‘the food of the pharaohs’ – there are widely cited records of broad bean traces being found in ancient tombs and claims that paintings from ancient Egyptian times show people cooking taameya.

与古埃及的联系,被认为是蚕豆在埃及经久不衰的关键。埃及人每天都会把丰盛的富尔梅达梅斯和沙拉三明治作为“法老的食物”来大肆宣扬。人们在古墓中发现的蚕豆痕迹被广泛引用,并声称古埃及时代流传下来的绘画显示人们那时就会做沙拉三明治了。

However, Mennat-Allah El Dorry, an Egyptologist and archaeobotanist at the University of Warsaw in Poland, has serious doubts about these assertions. She believes the broad beans found at ancient Egyptian sites were most likely modern contaminations; that the workmen on site at the excavations, some of which took place 100 years ago when methodologies were less stringent, could well have been eating ful medames and the beans found their way into the archaeological sites.

然而,波兰华沙大学的埃及古物学家和考古学家埃尔多里(Mennat-Allah El Dorry)对这些说法表示怀疑。她认为:在古埃及遗址发现的蚕豆可能是由于现代的污染,挖掘现场的工人很可能吃了大量的富尔梅达梅斯,而这些豆子也进入了考古遗址。其中一些挖掘工作发生在100年前,当时的考古方法还没那么严谨。

“Then, later, they come find it again and think: ‘Oh, good, we have ancient Egyptian ful’,” she said. “I think it wasn’t until Roman times that it started becoming more common… By the Roman times you start to get broad beans much more commonly on archaeological sites and, as time goes by, by medieval Egypt, you have broad beans appearing archaeobotanically much more often.”

她说:“后来,他们在古墓中发现了这些食物,然后想:'哦,太好了,我们在古埃及时代就有富尔梅达梅斯了。'我认为,直到罗马时代,蚕豆才开始变得普遍,在罗马时代,蚕豆在考古遗址上出现的频率要高得多。随着时间的推移,到了中世纪的埃及,蚕豆在考古植物学上出现的频率也很高。”

The beans have also been found in places that don’t make sense, such as a fifth-dynasty (2465-2325 BCE) royal funerary setting in Abu Sir on the outskirts of Cairo. “There is absolutely no reason for broad beans to be there – it’s not a settlement context and it’s not a funerary food offering, so I’m very doubtful of the finds of broad beans in ancient Egypt,” El Dorry said.

人们还在一些不该出现的地方发现了这些豆子,比如第五王朝(公元前2465年至2325年)在开罗郊区阿布爵士举行的皇家葬礼上。埃尔多里说:“蚕豆绝对没有理由出现在那里,因为那里不是一个种植点,也不是葬礼上的食物,所以我对在古埃及发现的蚕豆非常怀疑。”

As for the ancient paintings, scholars have since questioned the original publication and say the ‘broad beans’ depicted were more likely to have been tiger nuts, also known as chufa, a tuber that is believed to have been a staple in ancient Egypt.

至于那些古画,学者们对原始版本提出了质疑,称这些"蚕豆"更有可能是虎坚果,也被称为“chufa”,被认为是古埃及主食的块茎。

What is in less doubt is the ferocity of the debate over the origins – and mastery – of falafel. Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Egypt have all claimed to be its rightful ‘home’, while Israel has labelled it a national dish and firmly bound it to the country’s national identity.

但不容置疑的是,各国对于沙拉三明治所有权的争夺十分激烈。黎巴嫩、巴勒斯坦、叙利亚和埃及都声称是其合法的"家园",而以色列则将其列为一道国菜,并将其与该国的民族身份紧密联系在一起。

In her book, Falafel Nation: Cuisine and the Making of National Identity in Israel, Yael Raviv writes that “Food is constantly implicated in economic and political processes, as well as in social and historical processes… Because of the recent events in the Middle East, even something as innocent looking as a ground chickpea ball can be used as a weapon of sorts.”

雷维夫(Yael Raviv)在她的书中《沙拉三明治的国家:以色列美食以及国家认同》写道:“食品不断渗透进经济和政治领域,以及社会和历史的进程中,因为最近在中东发生的事件,连无辜的鹰嘴豆球都可以被用作武器。”

Standing at his food cart in a green football shirt under a blue Nike jacket, Amir gesticulates enthusiastically when discussing his country’s take on falafel. He’s been serving it the Egyptian way for 48 years, he said.

身穿绿色足球衫、蓝色耐克夹克的阿米尔站在他的餐车旁,兴致勃勃地比划着手势,谈论他的国家对沙拉三明治的看法。他说,他已经卖了48年埃及版本的沙拉三明治了。

“People who try the Egyptian style made with [broad] beans always like the taste, but those who eat it with hommos [chickpeas] just have to get used to it. Since the pharaonic times, we have been planting [broad] beans, not hommos,” he said, once again espousing the possibly misguided belief that broad beans have been eaten here since ancient Egyptian times.

“尝试用蚕豆做埃及菜的人喜欢这种口味,但喜欢鹰嘴豆的人必须习惯这种味道。自法老时代以来,我们就一直在种植(蚕豆),而不是鹰嘴豆。”他再次对这种可能被误导的观点表示支持,即人们从古埃及时代起就开始吃蚕豆了。

While there’s debate as to the origins of broad beans, most modern historians tend to agree that falafel was indeed likely born in Egypt. It has been traced to the country’s Coptic Christians, who used it to replace meat during Lent. Such dishes were known as ‘muzawwarat’, which means ‘counterfeit dishes’, because they did not contain meat.

虽然对于蚕豆的起源存在争议,但大多数现代历史学家认为,沙拉三明治很可能诞生于埃及。它可以追溯到这个国家的科普特基督徒,他们在四旬斋期间用它来代替肉。这些菜肴被称为“muzawwarat”,意思是“菜”,因为它们不含肉。

While Nasrallah agrees falafel is likely to have originated in Egypt, she feels the whole discussion has become too politicised.

尽管纳斯鲁拉认为沙拉三明治可能起源于埃及,但她觉得整个讨论已经变得过于政治化了。

“I don’t tend to think of food in this narrow, nationalistic way,” she said. “Of course, the Israelis adopted it as one of the national dishes, but I don’t think dishes can be owned… I think food belongs to a region.”

她说:“我不倾向于用狭隘的、民族主义的方式来看待食物。虽然以色列人把它作为国家菜肴之一,但我不认为菜肴是可以拥有的,我认为食物属于一个地区。”

Most would agree that food is far too subjective for definitives like ‘best in the world’, but the brisk business being done by hundreds of taameya vendors all over Cairo testifies that Egyptians are in little doubt over the eminence of their broad bean-based formula. And as I bit through the doughy aish baladi bread to discover the toothsome crunch within, I found it hard to disagree.

大多数人会觉得用“世界上最好的”这样的措辞来定义食物太主观了,但开罗各地数百家沙拉三明治商铺的蓬勃发展证明,埃及人毫不怀疑这种以豆子为基础配方的食物的卓越地位。当我咬着松软的全麦面包,听着里面嘎吱嘎吱的清脆声音时,我发现确实对此很难表示异议。

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