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Egyptian Koshery moves to Midland Mall

Spiced koshery smell filled the Midland Mall, while rich humus and sweet baklava welcomed customers to a new location of Egyptian Koshery: A Taste of Cairo. The restaurant opened in the mall's food court on June 5.

Riham Erdman is co-owner of Egyptian Koshery. She is Egyptian and makes authentic family recipes to share a piece of her culture.

“If anybody travels to Egypt, they will find the people there very welcoming,” Riham said. “They try to introduce everybody to their kitchen, their cuisine. ... They will try to feed them; they might invite them to their houses to have a meal.

“This is why I want to share food and teach people about our culture.”

Dale Erdman, Riham’s husband and co-owner of Egyptian Koshery, said the menu is fully vegan and vegetarian. His goal for the Koshery is to be a healthy option of a fast-food place.

The signature dish is the Koshery, which Dale said is the most popular street food in Egypt. It consists of macaroni, rice, lentil beans, chickpeas, fried onions and homemade tomato sauce, and is “bombarded with flavor,” he said.

Some other dishes, according to the menu, are grape leaves; falafel bowl; baba ghannouj, which is a roasted eggplant; lentil soup and Egyptian tea.

Riham said Egyptian cuisine is not very spicy but has a distinctive taste.

Charles Strong, a Midland resident, was walking around the mall and noticed a sign for the restaurant. He said the place looked interesting.

“I think it’s going to be great,” he said. “I’m a big fan of Egyptian food, and I’ve already seen a few things that I would like on the menu.”

Riham said the business started by joining the farmer's markets in Saginaw and Midland in 2016. Then, in 2020, the couple opened a full restaurant location at Saginaw Road in Midland.

The business decided to move because its contract with a landlord ended. Dale said as soon as the couple announced that, they were “bombarded with private messages telling us to come to the Midland Mall.”

Egyptian Koshery customers were also messaging mall owner Jordan Dice, and the next day he reached out to the Erdmans, Dale said.

“We hope that our loyal customers can come today to see us, and we get some new customers from around,” Riham said.

Riham and Dale's love story 

Riham and Dale decided to open their restaurant right after they got married and came back to the United States.

They met in 2012 at Saginaw Valley State University, when Riham and Dale took the same Spanish class.

“She would go back to Egypt forever; she was here only for one year,” Dale explained. “Before she left, she had a party in her dorm ... We were good friends, and she made koshery for dinner. I took one bite of the koshery, and then decided to fly to Egypt and propose.”

While in Egypt, the couple stopped at a koshery restaurant, and that where the dream was born, Dale said.

He said people in Egypt are “very friendly (and) very open.” They would come up to him, say hi and start friendly conversations.

“They're very friendly, very welcoming,” Dale said. “It's funny because when I told people that I was going to Egypt to get married, everybody would gasp (and say), ‘Is it safe?’ ... I can't believe people would think (that way).”

Egyptians are generous and hospitable, Riham said. For example, if a stranger is lost, she said, people in Egypt would help him find where to go and sometimes even show him popular places to see.

Dale also noted that people in Egypt aren’t in such a rush as Americans, and they take their time to relax and enjoy life.

“It was very hard to find, as we were walking down the street, a coffee shop where we could go inside and get a cup of coffee to go,” he said. “People would look at us like, ‘What do you mean? This is a coffee shop; sit down and relax a little bit.'”

Riham said that for the most part, America has welcomed her, but not all people have been that friendly.

“Some people look at me and ask me very annoying questions and they treat me as an alien,” Riham said. “They ask me if I know some terrorists in person. Why? Why would I know terrorists?

“If somebody is an extremist, it can exist anywhere, and doesn’t relate only to Arabs.”

She said it’s important that Americans treat international people as equals. Similarly, if a food place is international, it doesn’t have to mean that the prices are going to be cheaper.

“No country is cheaper or less educated or less humane than any other country,” Riham said.

Even though it was hard at first for Riham to live in the U.S. and she missed her family, she said her husband made it easier for her to stay here because he was giving her love.

She said Egyptian Koshery is also her way of educating other people, telling stories about her culture and welcoming them with good food.

The Koshery is now open from noon to 8 p.m. every day except for Monday and Tuesday.

Masha Smahliuk is a newsroom intern for WCMU based at the Midland Daily News.
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