Since I am blessed with a sweet gum, I have a proclivity for desserts and I am always looking out for new sugar treats to sample during my travels. While most of us have indulged in Baklava and it is the most popular Middle Eastern sweet, there are other sweet treats one should definitely not miss out on whilst travelling to the Middle East.
Below are six such delightful sweet treats:
KUNAFAH is a popular, traditional sweet served in scores of Middle Eastern restaurants. This rich, decadent treat comprises of a base of cheese (ideally Nabulsi cheese is used but nowadays one constantly finds it replaced with mozzarella) topped with layer of butter soaked semolina and chopped pistachios. The cheese acquires a stringy texture on baking while the semolina layer develops an alluring, golden crust. After the cooking is complete the entire arrangement is infused with sugar syrup for sweetening it. Additional flavor maybe introduced by spiking the sugar syrup with orange blossom or saffron. In different variants of this sweet, the top layer comprises of thread like vermicelli only or at times this vermicelli is mixed with a bit of semolina. A garnish of pistachio slivers further lends a lavish touch to the dish. The best way to enjoy this sweet is to eat it as soon as it is pulled out of the oven. The most that one can store away this sweet for later consumption is barely a few hours owing to its highly perishable nature.
TAHINI HALWA is popular in Levantine as well as the Middle East region. This is a preparation of few, simple ingredients like sesame, pistachios and honey/sugar. Piping hot sweet syrup is folded into a crushed mix of sesame and pistachio and allowed to cool in greased tray. This hot sugar syrup acts as a binding agent and combines all ingredients into one crunchy, delectable mass that is cut into pieces once it is set.
BASBOUSA is an exemplary Egyptian cake but is made across countries in the Middle East with variations. The core ingredient of this cake is semolina and it is usually topped with whole almonds. Post baking the cake is infused with sugar syrup containing pistachios and at times even orange blossom.
SHIRAZI FALUDE/falooda is a chilled, refreshing Persian sweet delight. The falude or vermicelli has a crunchy texture and are lightly sweetened by immersing in sugar syrup. Additional flavor can be introduced to the vermicelli by adding different kinds of syrups like rose and saffron. The best way I feel to enjoy them is with VANILLA BASTANI/ice cream drizzled with rose syrup. The creaminess of bastani and topping of pistachio slivers elevates the richness of this sweet treat.
LUGAIMAT are the famed, sweetened dough balls of Emirati cuisine. Made from a leavened dough and sometimes even containing a starchy additive, these dough balls are fried in butter till they turn crunchy and develop a deep golden hue. Just prior to consumption they are doused with date dhibs or honey or even chocolate sauce to sweeten them.
CHEBAB are sweet Emirati pancakes having beautiful golden color owing to saffron in their recipe. Flour, sugar, eggs and green cardamom powder are other ingredients used to arrive at this dish. A dollop of cream cheese and drizzle of date syrup as garnish are perfect accompaniments with these pancakes.
So do try out these yummy sweet treats whenever you get a chance.
Till then, HAPPY EATING…
- Food & travel enthusiast