My New Favorite Dessert: Künefe
by Victoria Challancin
My love of kunefe isn't new, but my rediscovery of it is. When I lived in the Middle East in the eighties, I learned to love a typical Lebanese sweet called kunafah. And yes, the spellings vary widely: knafe, kunafeh, kanafeh, the Turkish künefe, and more. But no matter what you call it or where you eat it, it remains some variation of dessert heaven: a sugar-syrup drenched, cheese-filled shredded-phyllo-pastry wonder that just takes my breath away.
I recently returned from leading a small group to Istanbul (more on this soon!), where I reencountered this amazing dessert once again. The versions I ate were stuffed with a fairly strong cheese, came hot to the table, and were topped with a dollop of ice cold sherbet. Hot, cold, pungent, sweet. Perfect contrasts. Perfect tastes. A perfect dessert.
Kunefe from Istanbul's famous Mado Cafe...home to world-class desserts and ice creams.
A brochure from Han Restaurant, placed on the table to tempt...
Han Restaurant's version of kunafe, once we were tempted...
The melted cheese, visible...
I would love to make this dessert, but haven't yet found the shredded phyllo dough(sometimes called kadafi, kadayif, kataifi and other names depending from where it comes) here in San Miguel and suspect I am not clever enough to make it myself. I did, however, discover several recipes online though. Here are a couple of links to recipes and one how-to video:
From food.com Kunefe made with Kadaifi
From turkishcookbook.com Kunefe
From watchdoit.com Kanafeh How-To Video
From aturkishcookinamerica.com Turkish-Style Kunefe
I haven't given up on making some improvised version of this dessert with the freshly-made phyllo dough available here in San Miguel at Luna de Queso on Ancha de San Antonio. My late mother-in-law, a Macedonian, made her own phyllo; surely I could at least buy some and cut it up. What do you think??????