Kataifi is a popular Middle Eastern pastry made with a special form of shredded phyllo dough that is also called kataifi. Most forms are sweets, typically with nuts and honey which make them flavourful, crunchy, and very sweet. However, some cooks also use the dough to make unique savoury appetisers that may be made with ground meat or vegetables. Many Middle Eastern bakeries stock kataifi, and it is also possible to make pastries with it at home, for cooks with steady hands and patience.
Its fine strands provide a unique texture, and it’s vermicelli-style nature makes it pliable into shapes only limited by your imagination.
It’s also surprisingly easy to use. Wrap, roll, mould or crumb, its texture is very forgiving, with strands that are very easy to pull apart. Feel free to shape quite vigorously – this fluffs up the texture. You can then bake or fry it.
FACTS ABOUT KUNAFA
- It’s good, really really good! The most well known version of Kunafa is made with white Nabulsi cheese
- Kunafa Nabulsi originated in the Palestinian city of Nablus, hence the name Nabulsi or Nabulsieh
- Real Nama dough is not made using Semolina. It’s actually a modified & refined version of Kataifi (Shredded phyllo pastry)
Yes, chilled Kataifi pastry can be frozen however, it must be allowed to come completely to room temperature before opening the packets for use. Freezing the chilled Kataifi pastry will extend the shelf life by a further 9 months. We also manufacture frozen Kataifi pastry which is used predominately for export purposes and has a 12 month shelf life.
Phyllo (or Filo) & Puff Pastry differences
If you’ve enjoyed your fair share of tarts, baklava, and other delicately doughy treats, you know that both puff pastry and phyllo dough are wonderfully flaky. Though you can use them for some similar applications, their makeup is very different.
Puff pastry is known as a laminated dough, and it’s made by folding plenty of butter into the pastry to create alternating layers of butter and dough. When baked, puff pastry actually puffs up, creating lots of flaky layers. You’ll get the airiest layers when you handle the pastry as little as possible, but you can also roll out the dough to create a denser pastry.
In contrast, phyllo dough is already incredibly thin, even leaf-like, and traditional recipes don’t include much butter or other types of fat at all. Instead, you’ll usually add extra fat when you bake with phyllo dough, as recipes often call for brushing each leaf with butter. Phyllo dough does get flaky when baked, but it doesn’t give you the airy quality that puff pastry does.
Filo pastry has a huge health advantage because there is no fat in the mix. It is made solely from flour and water. Fat – in the form of melted butter, spread or oil – is brushed on the layers as they are assembled for recipes so the quantity of fat used is therefore up to the cook.
Puff pastries on the other hand are a distinct type of pastry that features layers of butter-covered dough rolled and folded over each other. Puff pastries are so named because they puff up when baked. They are not ideal for optimal health or weight loss diets, as they are high in calories and fat.
Kataifi Nutrition Facts
*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
This crunchy pastry has a somewhat obscure history. The word kunafa evidently comes from Egypt, where kenephiten was the name of a flat bread in the ancient Coptic language, but we don’t know much about what kenephiten was like.
In the Middle Ages, as Arab cookbooks make clear, kunafa had come to mean a particularly thin crepe (the Arabic word for crepe is qata’if, so now you know where the Greek name kataifi comes from). But it was not fried in a pan like a crepe.
Instead, you made a batter by kneading dough hard and then gradually diluting it with water, and you poured it onto a sheet of polished metal known as a mirror. The “mirror” was heated, so when you poured off the excess batter, a sheet of dough stuck, and that was the kunafa.
In some medieval recipes the kunafa is used as is, but others say to cut it up with scissors into rose petal or noodle shapes and then fry them and mix them with syrup. This is already pretty close to the modern pastry, and in the Middle Ages some cook hit on the idea of dribbling the batter onto the “mirror” for ready- made strips. The tool to do it was already on hand, because Middle Eastern confectioners had always made fritters called zulabiya by dribbling the same sort of batter into boiling oil.
It had taken only 500 years or so, but “shredded wheat” had been invented.