Künefe is an Anatolian specialty that I risked ordering at the same cafe in Istanbul where I succumbed to the tantalizing marketing of Ayran. While my choice of Künefe was even less informed than my Ayran choice, Künefe turned out to be not only a cultural favorite, but a universally understood combination of dessert flavor magic.
As you can see from the menu, all I knew from the outset was that the Künefe is a dessert (sweet!…probably), that is special (ah..yea…so is Ayran…), and it is from Anatolia.
For those of you who might need a geography lesson (like I did as I prepared for my trip to Istanbul…), “Anatolia” is Turkish for…
…in other words, 97% of the country, “Asia Minor” or “Turkey.” So, Künefe is a special Turkish dessert. Still having no idea what would appear on the plate before me, I confidently ordered Künefe.
I was delighted when this plate appeared before my eyes (ah…yea, my photography hand was slower than my fork hand).
Even though a couple of bites are missing, I hope you can visualize a crispy round of fried phyllo dough with those bright pistachios crushed on top; while you’re at it, go ahead and imagine the buttery smell wafting up on heat waves from this delightful dish.
The dessert had taken quite a while and I was still reeling from the Ayran experience, so I timidly took bites from the outer edges. Oh, sweet delight! The preparation time must have allowed the perfect syrup saturation as the heat fried the phyllo dough – it was crispy and crackly, yet still chewy and sweet. What I didn’t immediately know was how wonderful the syrup used to sweeten the dish would mix with the cheese baked into the phyllo dough.
Yes, that’s right! CHEESE in the dessert pastry with syrup!
Künefe presents a wonderful insight to the mysteries of phyllo dough. I was mostly interested in eating Künefe. However, I found this website that describes more of the history of Künefe, as well as a recipe for those brave souls willing to experiment with phyllo dough. If I can convince Dave to take on this challenge, I’ll post the results here.
Until then, we’ll all have to dream about this delectable Turkish dessert…
p.s. I really don’t think bloggers should use “yum” – (nor “post script” cop-outs); I mean, it is kind of a lazy word for describing food, but let’s be real, what other word so universally describes that feeling of the food hitting your taste buds, textures clashing and melting in perfect rhythm in your mouth and slowly sliding down into your stomach as your lips purse into that “MMmmmmmm…” that is the only phrase you are capable of while you recover from the sensory overload of the bite you just ate.
p.p.s. The menu photo is a bit tight, and I considered not including it, but for those curious about cafe menus in Istanbul, this gives much insight.