Under the desert sun, fresh dairy products sour by the minute. Egyptians counter the spoiling process by fermenting buffalo milk into mish. Salty, sharp, and pungent, this semisoft accoutrement takes on a yellow-brown hue when ripe. It is also sometimes inhabited by maggots. Think of it as a protein bonus.
Mish begins as karish, a soft, white cheese, which cheesemakers place in an earthenware pot that gets filled to the neck with salted milk and seasonings such as fenugreek, red pepper, and cumin. The pot, sealed tight with mud, creates a partially anaerobic environment that conserves and preserves resources, all while enhancing nutritional benefits by cultivating healthy bacteria. The maggots that might breed inside aren’t harmful—at most, they’re pesky. According to a Los Angeles Times article, “the worms of the mish arise from it” is an expression used to describe problems that one shouldn’t worry about.
Historically, peasants treated mish as a staple food, but it’s not relegated to necessity. Today, Egyptians continue to enjoy the funky cheese as an appetizer or side dish across the country.
Where to Try It
Kazouza14street 9 maadi, Cairo, Egypt
This Cairo cafe has an extensive menu, including a side of mish.