Knafeh is a sweet and salty Arab dessert made by layering white brine cheese and shredded filo or kataifi pastry. The pastry is made from extruded dough and often dyed orange before being cooked on a hotplate, layered with cheese, soaked in a sugar syrup and topped with pistachios. While knafeh is popular in the Middle East, it can be difficult to find in Australia. So owner Mousa Khayat decided to make it the star of the show at his dessert bakery Knafeh Nabulseyeh.
Commonly associated with Khayat’s hometown of Nablus, Palestine, the treat reminds the former dental technician of his childhood and culture. After 30 years living in Australia, Khayat started building and selling knafeh machines – which uses a giant copper spinning plate to prepare the fine strands of pastry – before opening his first store in Hughesdale with his family in 2015, and relocating to Coburg in 2023.
Knafeh Nabulseyeh offers both coarse and fine versions of the dessert: the coarse version is topped with kataifi strands adding layers of crispness, while the fine version uses the same pastry ground down to create a smoother texture.
Also on the menu are traditional baklava, maamoul (cookies filled with pistachios, walnuts or dates), as well osh el bulbul, which uses the strands of pastry from the knafeh to create bird’s nest-like snacks filled with pistachios. Another addition to the offering is basaleh – which translates to “onion” – featuring layers of pastry with a creamy coconut filling.
Inside the store you’ll hear traditional Palestinian music and be transported to a Nablus streetscape in the ’60s via a large black-and-white photo on the wall. It’s a street Khayat and his son Amir Khayat visited when they spent several months in Palestine training in the craft of knafeh.
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