Mumbai Food: City venture introduces the Middle Eastern dessert, kunafa
We trace the story of kunafa while digging into the moreish Middle Eastern dessert being served by a new Mumbai-based food venture
A saffron-infused sugar syrup is to be poured on the kunafa before it's eaten
Living in Mumbai, our exposure to Middle Eastern desserts has been restricted to baklava and stuffed dates, often courtesy relatives returning from a holiday from that part of the world. Unfortunately, we're missing out on a vast collection of desserts that goes well beyond these — Basbousa (a sweet semolina cake), Aish El-Saraya (sweetened bread garnished with nuts), and Sutlac (rice pudding) being some.
Hoping to add more such desserts to our lexicon is Foodeementals, a venture started by two friends, Sufyan Qureshi and Zuber Barudgar. Incidentally, the young men both come from management backgrounds, but share a love for food. The duo hopes to introduce more exotic dishes to Foodeementals' repertoire in the near future, but for now, serves just one dish — kunafa.
Kunafa (also called knafeh) is a toothsome dessert that can be found throughout the Levant, but is believed to be indigenous to the Palestinian city of Nablus, situated in the northern West Bank. Kunafa is to Nablus what waffles are to Belgium, or gelato is to Italy. In fact, a man from Nablus holds a Guinness world record for baking the world's largest kunafa. Traditionally eaten at dusk to break the fast during the holy month of Ramadan, kunafa is now consumed all year round.
This dessert, described simply, is a cheese pastry. However, when we order a 500gm Cream and Cheese Kunafa (Rs 650) from Foodeementals and dig into it, we realise this boring description does the dish no justice.
Proof of the kunafa…
To begin with, it's evident that Foodeementals has put some thought into the packaging — the disc of baked kunafa is placed on a sturdy bamboo plate, which is then sealed firmly using cling film. Finally, the package is wrapped rather festively, red ribbon included. A small bottle of saffron-infused sugar syrup accompanies the package.
We pour the fragrant syrup on the kunafa and stick our spoon in. The crispy, ghee-enriched kadayif (shredded phyllo pastry) on the top gives easily, revealing a soft centre. The creamy, slightly sweetened cheese works in tandem with the crunchy texture of the phyllo, giving you a dessert that is simple yet addictive. Think of it as a Middle Eastern cheesecake.
The kunafa comes in festive wrapping
The traditional recipe calls for unsalted goat's milk cheese, which is layered between two layers of kadayif. Over the years, however, several variations have emerged, with the goat's milk cheese being replaced with buffalo mozzarella, or even a combination of cheeses. Barudgar, who himself makes the kunafa sold by Foodeementals, tells us that their version uses the latter, but is reluctant to share the precise make-up of the centre. He reveals that he is now working on a cheese-only version of the kunafa. You can also place an order for chocolate or mini variants.
Log On To: foodeementals.com
Cost: Rs 399 onwards
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