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A Quick Guide to some Arab Sweets

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March 27, 2016 / Arab / By
Anna

When I was a newly married young woman, I had a cookbook that I was very fond of, sadly lost now. One of the dishes I enjoyed cooking was baklava, so was sorry to find that I did not really like the baklava made in the UAE or anywhere I have been in the Middle East. Perhaps it was a Greek recipe I initially tried. I find the local baklava too sweet. But I quickly found that I was able to get my sugar rush from ma’amoul, which I still do not pronounce properly – it’s the emphasis that gets me.

Ma’amoul is a semolina dough stuffed with either pistachios, walnuts or dates. (That's them in the left of the picture above.) The shape varies depending on the filling. I am mad for the walnut ones and will only eat ma’amoul made by Al Samadi Sweets. Once you have had the best, why look elsewhere. Luckily, they have branches all over Dubai, as well as neighboring Emirate of Sharjah and also Abu Dhabi. 

There are two other sweets you need to try when here: first, karabij. This is a sort of crisp cookie with nuts and a soft white topping - that's karabij in the photo above. I assumed the topping was a type of marshmallow and perhaps it is but it is made from a plant I had never realized was used as a food – soapwort. Soapwort used to be used before soap, or when soap was in short supply, to wash your body and clothes in some European countries and perhaps in the Middle East, too. But in Lebanon, it is used to make the topping for karabij. If you have a chance to handle a tub of it, it is much lighter than a tub of marshmallow would be, which makes sense when you know that it is the whipped root of the soapwort and syrup.

The other is kunafa. You may see it spelled different ways because the vowels are seldom consistent when rendering Arabic in English characters. It is basically a sweet cheese and noodle pastry pie. First nuts are scattered, then clarified butter is spread thickly onto a very large round metal dish; layers of thin noodles are lightly stacked on the butter, then a white rather tasteless cheese is crumbled on top and pressed into place.

This is then placed on top of a gas burner and turned constantly until the noodles go golden and the cheese melts. It is flipped, ample quantities of syrup are poured on top and it is served.

Eaten hot while the cheese is stretchy, it is fantastic. But a diet food it is not.

It is often quite orange in color, but that means a coloring agent has been added, quite unnecessarily I feel.

Al Samadi Sweets

Country: United Arab Emirates

Province/State: Dubayy

City: Dubai, Deira District

Address: Al Muraqqabat Rd

Zip/Post Code: N/A

Location Tips: A very short taxi ride from Dubai Creek

Phone: +971 4 269 7717

Website:www.alsamadisweets.ae...

Price Guide:$ (What's this?) N/A = home cooked meal,etc
$ = street food, fast food,etc
$$ = bistro, cafe, pub, bar,etc
$$$ = fine dining,etc

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