Lawrence Libations revisits an old summer standby this week, with a Middle Eastern twist on lemonade at Aladdin Cafe.
The addition of rose water — which itself has been marketed as a good-for-you “beauty drink” as of late in the Western world, apparently showing up in the aisles of upscale supermarkets and New York City juice bars, in addition to centuries of Middle Eastern culinary tradition — results in a very sweet, very odd flavor (in a good way) that’s difficult to describe. I guess “it tastes like rose petals” would be the appropriate answer.
Mixed with lemonade, it makes for an extremely invigorating (this stuff will wake you up if you're feeling sleepy) thirst-quencher. The Aladdin Café menu also promises saffron blossoms along with the rose water — we couldn’t find any blossoms in our drink, aside from a few flecks of the bright orange spice floating among the ice cubes. Still, pretty extravagant for a regular ol’ Monday afternoon in Lawrence.
The hard stuff: no alcohol in this one
Where it’s served: Aladdin Café, 1021 Massachusetts St.
What it costs: $2.99
Other libations at this location: Notably, the Turkish coffee, if you’re looking to fully commit to the Middle Eastern/Mediterranean theme
— Drink up. Stay classy. Don’t forget to tip your bartender. And let us know if you want to suggest a libation for this feature — email email@example.com or Tweet her at Twitter.com/hlavacekjoanna. Cheers.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at Twitter.com/hlavacekjoanna. Check back weekly and monthly, respectively, for more Off the Beaten Plate and Lawrence Libations.