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Kanafeh from Egypt: what is this delicious sweet?

As we have been telling in this blog, the gastronomy of Egypt is very rich and varied, as well as healthy: many of its dishes are suitable for vegetarians, according to its original recipe, i.e., without ad hoc modifications. However, it also offers sweet temptations that are hard to refuse and that we can indulge in from time to time. This is the case of kanafeh, one of the most delicious dessertsof the local cuisine. In this post we tell you what it is, what it contains and why you should try it during your trip around the country.

Origin of kanafeh

Kanafeh is a typical cake of the Arab countries and, in general, of all the Mediterranean Levant. In fact, it is rather more common in the north of Egypt, i.e. in the Nile Delta and in the capital Cairo.

Its origin is believed to be in the present-day territory of Palestine and, from there, it spread to other places. In fact, there are very similar versions in nearby but culturally different countries, such as in Turkey (kadayif tel) and Greece (Kadaifi).

What is in the kanafeh

The kanafeh is easy to recognize by its unmistakable appearance. It is made from kadaif which are a kind of thin semolina noodles , in the style of angel hair or Italian vermicelli . The curious thing here is that these are mixed or mashed together with butter and creamy ricotta cheese, after having been cooked.

When the mixture is the right one, without tangles, it is placed on a tray and put in the oven. This gives it a nice, soft consistency that is compact enough for a cake texture.

After that, they are soaked in syrup, which is what gives them that characteristic intense sweet touch. This syrup is usually made with water, sugar and lemon juice. And as usual in all Arab pastries, there is always a final touch in the form of nuts, which can be walnuts, pistachios or others, almost always ground or in small pieces. Finally, its top usually has an orange appearance, which may simply be the effect of food coloring, although ideally it is due to the ‘crust’ that forms as a result of baking.

But what will impact you most about kanafeh is probably that indescribable pleasure you experience when you cut a slice and watch the cheese strands separate from the cake. A pleasure that can also be experienced by taking a bite or cutting it with a spoon when you put it in your mouth.

How and where to eat kanafeh in Egypt

As it is a cake, it is usually served in triangular portions. This makes it a perfect choice as a dessert after a menu, or as a delicious sweet to be eaten with a spoon while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee.

As mentioned above, kanafeh is especially widespread in northern Egypt . In Cairo you will find an interesting variety of establishments where to find it. In some cases, they are bakeries that produce confections suitable for take-out, either because of their size or their consistency.

And of course, if you go to eat at a local restaurant of a certain level, look for it in the dessert section, as it is likely to be listed as a specialty or suggestion of the house. It is also a very popular sweet during the month of Ramadan: many Egyptians, in a family atmosphere, eat this sweet during iftar (dinner to break the fast).

If you think you might like this dessert or simply want to taste it as a cultural experience, do not hesitate to ask our staff for advice: they will surely know how to recommend a pastry shop or a restaurant where you can enjoy the sweet taste of this Egyptian cake.

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