Kanafeh Naabulsiya (Middle Eastern Sweet Cheese Pastry)

Difficulty: easy

This is the “other” Kanafeh (Kunafa) which is actually easier to make. I tried reading up the history of this dish and it is either a Turkish variant of the original Palestinian dessert or it just descended from the sky in delicious angelic hands. Not to be confused with the not-so-delicious angelic hands that touched you when you were a kid as you wondered why your uncle called his penis “angelic hands”. Good times. This recipe uses an ingredient called kataifi which is just soft vermicelli dough and can be obtained from any Middle Eastern store. The cheese of this dish is called Akkawi and is like a softer version of unsalted mozzarella. This recipe make two 8″ pies which can serve up to 8-10 people, but my friend and I ate it in one sitting while reading MRIs. Me while looking at a mirror: “Why are you like this?” Lets begin!


2 cups sugar

1 cup water

2 tsp lemon juice

2 tsp orange blossom water (can substitute with rose blossom water)

250 gram kataifi dough

400 gram Akkawi cheese (can substitute with unsalted mozzarella)

100 mL + 1 tbsp clarified butter/ghee (can substitute with unsalted butter)

1 tsp deep orange food coloring

Chopped pistachio for garnish (optional)



First we make the sugar syrup. In a sauce pan, add the water, sugar, lemon juice, and orange blossom water. Personally I prefer rose water, but that is more South Asian and this dish is Middle Eastern. Bring to a boil while mixing using a wooden spoon then let it simmer on low heat for 3 minutes. Remember to keep mixing it to the sugar doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pan. Set aside.


You might be wondering why we are using so little dough and why it smells so funky, but worry not because it is about to expand beyond your wildest imagination and the smell will go away. Chop your kataifi dough in 2 inch pieces and use your hands to separate them. Make sure you separate all the clumps because they aren’t fun to chew.


In a large sauce pan, add the shredded dough and 100 mL clarified butter and lightly roast it on medium low heat for 7-8 minutes. Basically you want to dry up the dough and make it crispy without changing the color. This step completely changed the texture of the pastry for the better and I do not advise that you skip it, even though many people do. If you skip this step then you have to bake it for 5 minutes longer.


I used two 8″ baking pans but you can use a single larger one if you have one. Using a brush, line the bottom of the pans with the food coloring and butter.


Using a little less than half of the crisp shredded dough, line the bottom of the baking dish and use your hands to press it down until it looks even. Leave the edges slightly raised.


Add half the cheese and press it down evenly.


This is an additional step, I sprinkle a little of the crispy shredded dough on top of the cheese to make a thin layer, about 2-3 mm. This prevent the cheese from sticking to the bottom of the serving dish or plate. Repeat the last few steps until you have two pies. Bake in an over at 400 degrees Fahrenheit  for 18-20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. You may have to increase the bake time by a couple minutes if you are baking both pies together.


Use a knife to separate the sides and turn it on to your serving dish. I prefer to use one with raises edges so the sugar syrup doesn’t run off, but this decreases the aesthetic appeal. Use a spoon to slowly pour about half of the sugar syrup on to each pie. Only add a little at a time so the pastry can absorb it. Garish with ground pistachios.


This dish does not pair with any wines, eat it with a strong cup of Turkish cai to refresh your palate.




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