Food Obsession: kunafa in ka'ak

Kunafa in ka'ak is a devilishly delicious treat filled with sweet Arabic cheese.

The gooey goodness that is kunafa in ka'ak. Courtesy Arva Ahmed
Powered by automated translation

One of the naughtiest breakfasts I've had in Dubai is, hands down, kunafa in ka'ak.

It's Monday, 10.30am. I take a bite. A savoury sesame flavour starts oscillating across my tongue. I hear the semolina crackle, a faint warning of what is to follow. The next few seconds swoop in without giving me a chance to retreat, to run back to my granola and milk reality. A warm, outlandishly sweet sensation gushes all over me, numbing my mind with the heady scent of melted clarified butter, tugging me under a gooey blanket of syrup-soaked cheese that is so dense, so rich, so comforting, that I won't emerge from the sugary daze until a few brutal cups of coffee later.

Every morning, the neighbourhood old-timer Al Samadi Sweets in Deira hypnotises many a waking soul with kunafa in ka'ak. Kunafa is a sweet Arabic cheese pie typically served for dessert, though the Lebanese have cleverly repurposed it as a street-style breakfast. A petty Dh10 can buy you this off-menu item at Al Samadi: a bubbling hot slice of kunafa na'ama tucked into a charming, purse-shaped bread studded with sesame seeds. The version of kunafa used in this breakfast concoction has a molten base of akkaawi cheese and a crunchy crust of semolina kataifi noodles, finely ground and sprinkled on top. The whole pie seems delightfully sloshed with buckets of liquid sugar and butter, should anyone attempt to crawl out of the shop craving a second helping of dessert.

To console myself about my morning indulgence, I only had to look at the rapidly diminishing tray of kunafa at the shop. I wasn't the only sinner that day. One giant tray of freshly baked pie had already vanished with their early morning orders, this second one was nearly gone, and soon, Al Samadi would put out a third.

Al Samadi Sweets, Al Murraggabat Road, Deira, 04 269 7717.

Arva Ahmed blogs about hidden foodie gems in Old Dubai at