Getting to Know Kunafah, a Crispy and Sweet Dish from the Middle East

Kunafa is a sweet typical Middle Eastern food, especially during the month of Ramadan. Kunafa has different names in each country, including knafeh, konafa, kunefe, kenafe, and knefeh. Nevertheless, all of them refer to a pastry made with filo layers filled with cheese and sprinkled with pistachios. The word “kanaf” means to protect or shield in Arabic. This may refer to the two layers of dough that encase the cheese in the middle, as reported by Slurrp on Monday (4/3/2024). Currently, kunafa is known as a sweet dish with crispy and soft layers filled with cheese. The dough is then soaked in sugar syrup and left to absorb, then sprinkled with crushed pistachios. This food is important during Ramadan due to its nutritional value as it can replace the sugar and fat lost in the body after fasting.

The diverse origins of kunafa From the illustration photo of kunafa mozzarella. (Docs. Shutterstock/Hashem Issam Alshanableh) As quoted from Arab News on Monday (4/3/2024), kunafa originated from the Fatimid era. This sweet food is commonly seen on the tables of nobles, hence dubbed as food for the caliphs. Some also say that kunafa originated from Nablus, a city in Palestine, or Egypt in the 15th century. Furthermore, there are sources stating that the history of kunafa can be traced back to the Umayyad Dynasty. At that time, kunafah was eaten as a pre-dawn meal before starting the fast. There are two types of kunafa. One is khishneh, which has a coarser texture, while na’meh has a finer texture with semolina dough on top. The type of cheese used varies depending on the region of production. Each region has its own unique characteristics regarding kunafa. For example, in Syria, rose water and orange blossom water are used. Meanwhile, in Armenia, cinnamon is added to kunafa, and in Egypt, thick cream replaces cheese.

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