Country 074 – Palestine (Kunafa’s)

Kunafa'sLocation: 1801 Lawrence Avenue East, Scarborough

Yes, I’ve actually written about kunafa before — they have it on their dessert menu at Tabule (which is hit-and-miss).  But hey, if I can write about multiple versions of doner or noodles, why not multiple versions of kunafa?


Kunafa is great.  It’s a Middle Eastern dessert that consists of a layer of gooey white cheese topped with syrup-infused pastry.  I know that cheese in a dessert sounds odd, but the particular cheese they use — called nabulsi — has a neutral flavour and a pleasant gooeyness that makes it ideal for desserts.

Plus: everyone loves tiramisu and cannoli.  A cheese-based dessert really isn’t as strange as you might initially think.


The problem with kunafa is the same problem with pizza; because of the melty cheese, it really has to be eaten when it’s relatively fresh out of the oven.  As it sits out, the cheese starts to congeal and the pastry loses its moisture.  You can reheat it (or leave it on a hot plate as they do here), but it really isn’t the same.

The version they’re serving at Kunafa’s was quite tasty, but this was clearly an issue.


As you can see, the cheese was still very stretchy, but it was also a bit too tough.  If using a fork to cut through the cheese completely mangles the dessert, then your kunafa has probably been sitting out too long.  The pastry, too, was more dry and crumbly than it should have been.

But don’t get me wrong — I still really enjoyed this.  I’m not sure that there’s anywhere in the GTA that serves a really great kunafa, so this is about as good as it gets.  Nitpicks aside, it’s still delicious.


Country 027 – Jordan (Tabule)

: 2009 Yonge Street, Toronto

I recently tried the Winterlicious menu at Tabule; everything was quite tasty, particularly the perfectly cooked salmon kebab, but what I want to talk about is the Knaffa Ashta.

Knaffa (which has various spellings that I’ve found online, including kanafeh or kunafa) is one of those dishes that should really be bigger than it is; it’s seriously delicious.  I actually got to try the real deal while on a trip to Jordan, or at least one variation on it — it changes somewhat depending on where you get it and who’s making it.  The one that I had in Jordan consisted of a layer of soft, white cheese, sandwiched between two cakey layers made of semolina flour, soaked through with a sweet, rosewater-infused syrup.  It was amazing. I know cheese in a dessert sounds odd, but trust me, it was pretty much the best thing ever.

The version they serve at Tabule is a little bit different, with a more coarse, noodley pastry, and ashta — a Middle Eastern pasty cream — instead of the cheese.  It doesn’t quite hit the heights of the one I had in Jordan, but it’s probably one of the better versions of this dish I’ve had in Toronto.  The creamy ashta, in particular, really works well, and the amount of syrup is pretty much perfect — this is an easy dish to make cloying, but the amount of sweetness here was just right.

Tabule - the lemonade Tabule - the hallum salad Tabule - the salmon kebab Tabule - the knaffa ashta