The king of künefe

January 19, 2011

Every region of Turkey has its signature dishes, and one of Antakya’s tastiest is künefe, a pudding of a kind of vermicelli with soft cheese sandwiched in the middle. The whole thing is griddled to a crispy golden colour and doused in sugar syrup. It is, quite simply, delicious.

If you want good künefe in Antakya, the only place to go is Yusuf Usta’s shop Çinar Alti, nestled in a small square off the old city’s bazaar area. By the time I visited him last week, I’d already had the chance to try künefe in two or three other places, so was feeling fairly confident in my abilities to judge a good one.

But before I could taste Yusuf Usta’s künefe, I was treated to a demonstration of exactly how it’s made. First, flour and butter is rubbed together until tiny lengths of dough are formed. This takes quite some time, so Yusuf Usta sensibly leaves this arduous task to his assistant.

The spaghetti-like dough is packed loosely into the base of a large copper tray, which is then covered with a soft, somewhat tasteless cheese, crumbled evenly to cover the bottom layer of dough.

Another layer of dough covers the cheese, and the whole shebang is placed over a very hot charcoal fire. It takes about ten minutes for the künefe to become golden brown and the cheese to start to meld into the mixture.

When the first side of the künefe is ready, Yusuf Usta shows his true skill and tosses the large dish to cook the other side.

Another ten minutes to crisp up the other side, and the künefe is ready to eat. By this point, my mouth was seriously watering, and I couldn’t wait to try the tasty-looking concoction that had formed in front of me.

The finishing touch is a couple of spoonfuls of sugar syrup that simmers away in a large pot. I bit into the crispy künefe and as the hot, soft cheese and syrupy sweetness hit home, I can honestly say I was in heaven. Yes, it was true – Yusuf Usta is the king of künefe.

(Çinar Alti is at Ahmediye Cami Içi No:2, Antakya, Turkey. Tel +90 326 212 6888)

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6 Responses to “The king of künefe”

  1. Ravenous Ro Says:

    That looks fab, do they deliver….


  2. Ah, wouldn’t that be a wonderful thing…

  3. Catherine Says:

    Mmmm that looks delicious! How nice of them to give you a demonstration 😀


  4. Well, the plan is to try and make it myself some time. I was given a recipe, but I’m just not sure I have the patience to rub all that flour and butter into those tiny little vermicelli pieces. Maybe I can persuade Süleyman to be my assistant künefe-maker.

  5. Wendy Says:

    Now that looks delicious…. truly delicious. When we come to Istanbul (no, the dates aren’t set yet) I am defintely going there to try it!


  6. Wendy, I’m afraid this particular shop is in Antakya. But I plan to do some serious künefe research in your name here in Istanbul, so we can go and indulge when you come over!


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