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Syrup is the word

Delve into the syrupy world of Eastern desserts

Oriental desserts are a favourite part of Ramadan in Egypt and across the region (Photo / AFP / Ahmad Al-Rubaye )
Oriental desserts are a favourite part of Ramadan in Egypt and across the region
(Photo / AFP / Ahmad Al-Rubaye )

The first rule of eastern desserts is that you talk and think about them all day while fasting, trying not to salivate too much at work.

The second rule of Eastern desserts is that if they are not drenched in syrup, they are not worth your time; trust us on this: the stickier the better. There is no need to count calories or worry about fat intake, all you need to know is that when it comes to desserts, you either go big or go home.

Most of these oriental desserts were created during the Fatimid period, the same period that brought us the fanous. Fatimids certainly knew how to celebrate Ramadan in style. It is believed that on the same night that Egyptians received the Fatimid Caliph Al-Muizz with the fanous, they brought with them an array of Eastern desserts that started the tradition.

One can get lost in the world of Eastern desserts; konafa, served to kings and nobles during the Ottoman period is a stringy pastry mixed with ghee and sugar, laced with nuts, cheese filling and syrup. Since Ramadan currently takes place in the summer, the konafa has taken centre stage. Last year it had a mango filling, and this year Nutella is all the rage.

Baklava (known here in Egypt as baqlawa), holds many thin layers ofphyllopastry filled with syrup and nuts, and also believed to have arrived to the Middle East from Asia during the Ottoman period. Another variation of it is called kol we shkor (eat and be thankful), which is typically made in bite-sized pieces and filled with chopped pistachios.

Ramadan is not the same without zalabya, donut-like dough that is deep fried and dipped in sugar syrup. It is usually shaped in small bite-sized balls, and when fried it becomes hollow and crunchy. It is also known aslokmetal-qady, or the judge’s morsel, and believed to have originally come from Syria. The best type of zalabya is made fresh and eatenwhen it still holds its crunch;this is a reason why many still prefer to make it at home.

These were just three types of oriental desserts, but for us to mention all ofthe sticky, glutinous and fattening concoctions Egypt has to offer, we would have taken up the whole newspaper! Please try and sample all you can during the month.

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