Food & Drink, History & Heritage

Kunafeh: Sweet Cheese Pastry


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Today, we went to Mansour Mall in the evening. We thought of having Kunafeh (sweet cheese pastry) and so we walked into MADO Cafe. MADO is a Turkish ice-cream brand and has over 250 branches working as cafes and restaurants all over the world. The brand gets its name from two words : “Maraş”, the former name of the city where the firm is originated; and “Dondurma”, the Turkish name used for ice-cream.

Kunafeh is a pastry that is common to countries in the Middle East. It is a dessert popular in Levant region and Turkey, Greece, Iraq, etc. It is made with the shredded phyllo like pastry and it is usually filled with a neutral, non-salty, stringy cheese and it is baked until the pastry gets nice and golden brown and crispy and it is then smothered in a simple syrup. It is served with crushed pistachios spread over it.

According to Wikipedia, Kunafeh is first mentioned in 10th century. It is generally believed to have originated in Palestinian city Nablus in West Bank. However, some believe that the origin of the savoury sweet Kunafeh may date back to the time of the Abbasid Caliphate in 9th century Baghdad. Gil Marks, author of “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food,” writing about the “early adoption and production of this pastry by the Jewish community,” relates how the Caliphs’ cooks made a “crepe-like” pastry called qata’if wrapped around almond cream and drizzled with honey. By the 13th century, Middle Eastern cooks began to bake “thinly sliced … qata’if and tossed the shreds with honey,” but the preparation was later modified whereby the qata’if batter was poured “into thin lines onto the metal sheet.” This new method of cooking the dough became known as Kadayif or Kunafeh, a variation of the word qata’if.

Kunafeh is really very tasty sweet dish. I love it although it’s quite a high calorie dessert. MADO Cafe also served with a small piece of vanilla ice cream topped with crushed pistachios. Just awesome!

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