What is the Palestinian dish knafeh? Where to find the best of the sweet treat


Knafeh Nabulsieh, Palestinian Territories


Forget everything you know about sweet treats. Knafeh Nabulsieh, the incredibly delicious Palestinian dish, isn't a typical dessert. It's cheesy, for starters, featuring a thick layer of stretchy, mozzarella-like cheese the likes of which you might find on a Chicago deep-dish pizza. That cheese, however, sits between layers of crisp, interwoven noodles of pastry, and the whole thing is baked, and then topped with crushed pistachios and drowned in sugary orange-blossom syrup. It's a specialty of the city of Nablus, and one of the tastiest sweets you will ever eat.


There are various versions of knafeh (and plenty of spellings), a dessert with a long history that can these days be found throughout the Levant region, as well as Turkey, Greece, Iran and Egypt. All vary in their style and execution, and their true origins are murky, though references to layered crepe dishes appear in 10th-century Arab cookbooks. Depending on who you believe, knafeh could originate in Damascus, in Baghdad, or even Cairo. The Nabulsi version – probably the most popular in the Middle East – is thought to have been developed in the city sometime around the 15th century.


Knafeh is best enjoyed in Nablus as street food. Head directly to Al Aqsa, a bustling bakery in the Casbah – you'll know you're in the right place by the crowds.


Whether you're in Sydney or Melbourne, the best place to try knafeh is at a food truck run by the now legendary "Bearded Bakers". Find their locations on their Instagram accounts, at either @knafehsydney or @knafehmelbourne.


There are three main variations of Palestinian knafeh: khishnah, or rough, with a crust made from crisp noodle threads; na'mah, or fine, which uses semolina dough instead of noodles; and mhayara, which is a mix of the first two. Al Aqsa, in Nablus, serves mhayara.