Koshary is the ultimate Egyptian cheap meal, though it is enjoyed by everyone, rich and poor. You'll find dusty construction workers gathered around street carts, you'll find the wealthy enjoying it at home, and in between you'll find a few restaurants serving koshary, and only koshary.
Koshary, in Egyptian Arabic, means 'mixed-up,' and that is what koshary is--a jumble of rice, pasta and lentils sauced with a vinegary tomato sauce and topped with a sprinkling of crispy fried onions and a few chick peas. A garlicky vinegar and hot sauce are generally provided for you to add as you wish.
Your visit to a koshary restaurant begins at the till where you'll order and pay. Your only choice here is size, and rather than small, medium and large, you simply tell the man how much you're going to pay. Your serving will be dished accordingly. When we lived there (until 2005), the equivalent of about 40 US cents was more than enough to satisfy my own, substantial, appetite.
Your koshary will be assembled by a man on a raised dais with a large metal spoon. In front of him with be massive stainless steel vats of the components and your better koshary maestro will flick a bit of each into your bowl with flair and rhythm.
Make your way across the sawdust-strewn floor to an open table, add the provided condiments as you like and enjoy.
This recipie is infinately scalable. The most I've ever done was when I pulled a guest chef gig at my daughter's school. We served 273 kids for about US$ 90, or less than 35 cents each. Our costs on dry goods are similar to what you pay in the US. The four main ingredients and their ratios, as dry ingredients, are: lentils (one part), rice (four parts), pasta (four parts) and tomato sauce (eight parts). —innoabrd