A few months ago I had never tasted Egyptian food. Then in April, I found my way to Aubergine food truck in Plainview and was initiated into the mysteries of koshari (the Egyptian national dish, a savory pileup of rice, lentils, pasta topped with tomato sauce, fried onions and chickpeas). Now, a scant four months later, comes Al Masry Grocery, a new Egyptian market in Selden.
Moustafa Elzibk opened the shop in June with the aim of saving customers seeking Egyptian fare the trouble of traveling to Queens. He makes a rotating roster of hot dishes (including koshari) and salads as well as his own baklava and other pastries. (Al Masry’s Facebook page posts daily specials.) There’s also a full-service halal butcher and halal cold cuts.
Most of the store is given over to grocery items and just strolling up and down the aisles is like a little trip to Egypt. There’s chewing gum made with mastic (the stretchy sap of the mastic tree that was used for chewing gum as far back as Ancient Greece), a canned luncheon meat called Royal Chicken, tiny-grained white rice, multiple brands of molasses and even more brands of dried sunflower, pumpkin and melon seeds.
Dates come dried, pulped and in date-filled cookies reminiscent of Fig Newtons. A signature Middle Eastern vegetable, deep-green molokhia (aka mallow or jute), is hard to find fresh; Al Masry sells it dried and frozen. There are various fava beans dried, split and canned; falafel mixture frozen as a solid mass or formed into balls. You'll also find tahini and halvah, coffee and tea, and some housewares for good measure.
My visit started out on an admittedly awkward note. "What does Al Masry mean?" I asked Elzibk. "Masry" is what Egyptians call Egypt.
Al Masry Grocery is at 1310 Middle Country Rd., Selden, 631-846-4510.