Friday May 24th, 2024
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Make Vine Leaves Cool Again: How Kooka's Makes Traditional Food Easy

The cloud kitchen is on a mission to make grabbing a pack of stuffed vine leaves as easy as grabbing a pack of fries.

Layla Raik

Make Vine Leaves Cool Again: How Kooka's Makes Traditional Food Easy

With a new generation of self-appointed ‘delulu’, it-girl and soft boy archetypes are on the rise, and so the market is bound to morph and grow around its new primary audience. Everything is happening faster, and, in the meantime, age-old practices we knew to be our own, like rolling your own mahshi and folding your own sambousa, are growing obsolete. Or so we thought.

Kooka’s, the new cloud kitchen that’s taking our picnic iftars by storm, contemporizes traditional Egyptian food to make it smaller, quicker, and therefore more available for the younger generation. This very narrative is reflected in their story.

“For eight years, my mother has run a successful cloud kitchen that caters to a stable clientele that, by now, knows it by heart,” Mariam Helal, the co-founder of Kooka’s, tells SceneEats. “It works seamlessly, but it’s inaccessible to people of our generation.” Now, imagine if the very same quality at which Helal’s mother’s kitchen functioned was replicated into a concept that we, the generation of instant delivery and near-none executive function when it comes to planning ahead, could easily access. That is exactly what Kooka’s is.

“It all started when, for my graphic design graduation project,” Helal says. “I was given the opportunity to create a brand identity of my choosing. I decided to create the concept of a food truck specialising in Egyptian cuisine, but visually appealing. My dad had always said he wished we would grow up and expand on my mother’s work.”

Kooka’s stayed a mere concept until one day Malak’s brother - Omar Helal, the second co-founder - suggested they bring it to life. And so the two siblings ventured into their mother’s kitchen, and explored the various ways they could make what we call ‘akl sawany’ into something you could snack on in a garden, bring to a ‘ozoumah, or simply turn to on days when you forget you have to eat. In which case you can simply make your Kooka’s order before 12 PM and receive it on the same day.

A full tray of mombar becomes an easier-to-digest plate of mombar pops, the threatening demeanour of a huge pie is broken down into mini Kiri pies, and the layers of roqaq are compressed into a single bite - or multiple roqaq bites. Food at Kooka’s is simplified, bite-sized and just as delicious as the full thing - only a tad more concentrated.

“In making our food bite-sized, we made it endlessly more convenient. Who would have thought they could munch on mombar, or stuffed vine leaves, in between lectures?” Helal says. The ease with which Kooka’s provides us with traditional Egyptian food is creating a world where upon walking into a food court you could, instead of chicken nuggets or fries, you could just as easily grab stuffed cabbage.

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