Saturday, May 26, 2012

making room for dessert

After that incredible lunch, dinner felt like sheer gluttony. We decided to dine sparingly on three meze plates of hummus, ezme, and a dip of aubergine and yogurt, in order to leave room in our bellies for a much-anticipated dessert. Soft bread and mint leaves were plentiful, but the hummus, one of the dishes for which Antakya is famed, left me disappointed. I've been spoiled, you see. With a Lebanese father, I have Lebanese aunties, and those of you who have Lebanese aunties know that in their kitchens, you grow up to be a snob about certain dishes. I am ever so picky about my tabbouli, kibbeh, and hummus.  

Hummus, which has become wildly popular across the globe, is a delicious chickpea puree which comes from Lebanon. Yes, I said it. Lebanon. I know there are people who would disagree with me on the origins of this fantastic dip— and these disagreements can get strangely political— but I'm saying it's Lebanese. Never have I had a more delicious hummus than in Lebanon. Antakya's version seems to be made with a chickpea flour instead of real chickpeas, which makes the consistency a bit too runny for my taste. I found it rather bland, with far too much tahini. Hummus is simple: chickpeas, tahini (a sesame paste commonly used in the Middle East), lemon, garlic, and olive oil. Blend it all together, et voilà! Heaven. I like mine heavy on the chickpeas and lemon, with that punch of garlic— the key really, is in the proportions.

The dessert we had been waiting to try all day was none other than the syrupy, cheesy künefe, rumoured to be excellent in Antakya. I've mentioned the wonders of künefe before, both in Istanbul and Beirut— I am a huge fan of the sticky, gooey sweetness.

So what is künefe? Simply put, a baked dessert of mild, elastic cheese sandwiched between threads of kadayıf (a shredded dough), bathed in butter and syrup. The entire Hatay region is known in Turkey for this delicacy, but Antakya is considered to be the capital of künefe— and for good reason. What I found even more interesting than the dessert itself, was the way in which the kadayıf is made. A large, oiled copper disk is spun while a special bucket with evenly spaced holes pours the dough onto its surface. Large threads are formed, then scraped off:

Once you've filled your belly with butter, cheese, syrup and dough, there's only one thing left to do. Sit back and sip on a hot glass of çay, while discussing the day's discoveries.

1 comment:

Beth said...

We are very picky about our hummus, kibbeh and taboulleh in this household too, with its Damascene origin overlaid with some Beirut influence, and the mother's side having been Armenian. Please discuss taboulleh sometime too, I'd be amused to hear your take on it. As you said, it's all in the proportions!