Why It Works
- Blooming the spices in hot ghee brings out the warm aromas that will flavor the dish.
- Coating the basmati rice in the fat prevents the individual grains from sticking together and results in fluffier rice.
Egyptian fatta is the quintessential festive meal. It’s a crowd-pleasing dish bursting with bold flavors and textures: layers of seasoned, toasted pita and fragrant rice are topped with slow-cooked beef and drizzled with a punchy garlic-vinegar sauce. The dish is associated with all religious celebrations of Egyptian Christians and Muslims, and celebratory feasts aren’t complete without a lavish fatta at the center of the table, surrounded by a myriad of delicacies.
In Arabic, fatta means “cut in pieces,” which in the context of this recipe refers to sliced, toasted pita, the first layer of the dish. Though they share the same name, Egyptian fatta is unlike its Levantine counterpart: the Egyptian dish doesn’t include a yogurt sauce and uses a different cooking technique.
The long list of ingredients may be daunting, but the recipe itself is easy to break into manageable parts. Much of the recipe can be prepared ahead of time and kept in the fridge, then reheated and assembled right before serving.
Variations of Egyptian Fatta
While bread, meat, and rice are pretty much the main components of any Egyptian fatta, there are still some subtle variations. If Egyptians are making fatta for Eid, for example, they may decide between lamb or beef. Also, the cut of meat used is subjective. Some families prefer rustic and fatty bone-in cuts of meat, while others treasure the leaner flavor of fat-trimmed meat and the ease of boneless pieces.
Typically, Egyptian fatta is made with ruz masri (Egyptian rice), but that kind of rice is hard to find outside of Egypt. A good substitute is basmati or another long-grain rice instead; it works well and, I’ve found, complements the rest of the dish beautifully.
In researching the many versions of Egyptian fatta, I have learned that Egyptian Muslim families tend to drizzle a tomato-based sauce—in addition to a garlic-vinegar one—on their fatta, while their Christian compatriots use just the garlic-vinegar one to dress it. I’ve included both sauces below so you can try each, then decide if you prefer one over the other or like having both.