Off the Beaten Plate: Kunafa at Aladdin Cafe

Kunafa at Aladdin Cafe, 1021 Massachusetts St.

Kunafa at Aladdin Cafe, 1021 Massachusetts St. by Joanna Hlavacek

This exotic dessert (check out that Day-Glo color, man) has been referred to as the Middle East’s answer to the cheese Danish.

Sure, Aladdin Café’s kunafa starts with a thin layer of sweet Arabian cheese that has the appearance and viscosity of mozzarella, but the similarities pretty much end there — at least, from what my unsophisticated palette could determine.

The cheese portion is topped with a thick layer of shredded phyllo dough, sprinkled with crushed pistachios and then doused in a mysteriously orange sweet sauce. Traditionally, this syrup is flavored with either rose water or orange-blossom water.

As for what gives the kunafa its vibrant hue, our waitress guessed saffron, but from a bit of online sleuthing, we’re betting on orange food coloring.

Unlike its Greek cousin baklava, the kunafa’s phyllo dough loses its crunch (probably from absorbing all that syrup) and takes on the consistency of a something similar to a rice pudding — or perhaps Shredded Wheat after sitting awhile in the bowl.

Where to get it: Aladdin Cafe, 1021 Massachusetts St.

What you'll pay: $3.99

Try it with: A cup of cardamom-laced Turkish coffee, $2.99

Also on the menu: Lots of Middle Eastern/Mediterranean fare, from classic appetizers such as hummus and baba ghanouj, to soups, salads, sandwiches, shish kabobs and more.

— Off The Beaten Plate highlights some of the more exotic, oddly named or inventively concocted dishes from local menus. Know of an offbeat item we should check out? Email reporter Joanna Hlavacek at Follow her at Check back weekly and monthly, respectively, for more Off the Beaten Plate and Lawrence Libations.


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