A sweet cheesy combo that would make for the Happiest of meals.

Anyone heard the two-whole-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun jingle that McDonalds Arabia has been obnoxiously chanting over the radio for the past month? I’ve heard it every work day of February, maybe even January, to the point where it makes me want to wave a wrench violently in the air and yank out the dials of my car radio with raging burger hatred as I drive to work each morning.

Two-whole-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun sounds really uninspiring anyway. Except the ‘special sauce’ – that’s the only bit that I may have seriously contemplated for lack of more stimulating mental activity at the traffic lights. Why is it special? Is it a BBQ sauce? Is it a secret blend? Is it sweet? Is it spicy? Does it ooze out all over the burger and mix up with beefy juices and make you want to lick it off the burger wrapper?

I imagine not.

BUT, I have an idea that can save McDonalds Arabia from the monotony of the patties-and-blah-ingredients-in-a-sesame-seed-bun jingle. Would you believe that the idea is right here in their backyard? And that the production manager of a local baklava factory came up with the idea? Read closely Mickey D execs, this could open up new doors for McDonalds Arabia. Actually, for McDonalds all over the world.

It is [dramatic ascending music]…friends, get ready for the idea to be reengineered, shoved on a mass-scale production line and frozen to death so that it can be hauled half-way across the world to the Mickey D’s in Tokyo…THE KUNAFAH BURGER.


you gasp in awe and wonder right about now…t’was a very silent gasp…oh t’was not a gasp at all? more like a wtf?…’wtf a Kunafeh Burger?!’

Fine. The name isn’t all that inspiring. I’ll just have to leave it to Mickey D’s to chant it over and over again on the radio until it becomes a nob of overchewed and spat out gum dribbling down one wretched corner of your brain. That one corner that’s in charge of your sanity during that commute to work each morning.

Name aside, let me explain what The Kunafeh Burger is, and why it could revolutionize McDonald’s menu. All credit for this idea goes solely to the production manager of the local Al Samadi baklava factory. [FYI – I don’t hang around baklava factories on most days, this was a one-time visit that I managed to wrangle out of our family’s go-to baklava man, Ahmed, at our favorite Al Samadi bakery in Deira.]

Kunafah is an Arabic dessert that’s the brainchild of some food-Einstein’s ingenious idea to throw together thick white cheese, crispy semolina threads or ground semolina, and ghee (clarified butter) into one gigantic butter and cheese-exuding pie. Al Samadi makes one version of kunafah with akkawai cheese from Czech Republic, layering it with semolina and letting the two melt and fuse together on a gigantic revolving burner, before sliding the kunafah into the oven for the final finishing touch.  I’ve also seen versions where the cheese is replaced with fresh cream, but nothing beats the sensation of crackling through a crispy semolina layer and hitting a sweet, slightly salty bed of gooey melted cheese. Especially when it’s fresh out of the factory ovens.

Highly Simplified Step 1 - Layer semolina, akkawi cheese, and cook.
Highly Simplified Step 2: Take the Kunafeh pie out of the oven and watch it with greedy eyes.
Highly Simplified Step 3: Drown yourself in the molten cheese pool gushing out from under the crisp semolina crust.

So as I’m starting to greedily crack through the semolina layer and scoop out a creamy bite of warm akkawai cheese, the production manager starts distributing these sesame seed buns shaped like little handbags…right down to the shoulder strap. With my face stuffed with sweet cheese and crunchy semolina bits, I watch him cut open the bag, slide in a thick block of kunafeh, and then shove the final creation back out in front of our faces – ‘look, cheeseburger!’

Snazzy sesame seed purse
+ warm fat cube of kunafah
= sweet strands of crunchy gooey cheesy awesomeness...in-a-sesame-seed-bun.

Hell yeah. THAT’S what I call a real Arabian cheese burger. I’m surprised that McDonald’s hasn’t caught on this yet. It’s not even a revolutionary idea, in fact kunafeh in sesame seed buns is common street food in Lebanon.

With the rest of my kunafeh now nestled between two sesame seeded bun layers, I was so thrilled that I went all the way with this idea and come up with a range of potential propositions for Kunafehsizing Mickey D’s menu. I present to you:

…the Kunafeh McMuffin. A freshly toasted English muffin, a thick slab of akkawi cheese, crispy semolina sprinkles, and a side of sugar syrup. The perfect way to start your day.

…a McFlurry with Kunafeh balls, pistachio powder, and a honey drizzle*

…Premium green salad with crispy Kunafeh strips, orange wedges, toasted sesame seeds, and a honey citrus dressing. Go ahead, indulge, no one’s looking…and even if they are, heck, it’s a salad anyway.

…a Kunafeh McCookie. Molten akkawi cheese sandwiched between two deep-fried semolina cookies slathered with honey-caramel sauce.

…and last but not least, the Filet-O-Kunafeh. Oh-so-satisfying.

*nuts optional
My online album for this visit to the Al Samadi baklava factory can be found on my blog’s facebook page.

Author: InaFryingPan

With a family legacy of ingenious cooks, a nutritionist and chef-extraordinaire mother, and a father who introduced me to steak and caviar when I could barely reach the table, I had no choice but to acquire a keen awareness of food during my childhood years in Dubai. But it was only after I found myself on a college campus in Philadelphia – far away from home, too cheap as a student to spend on anything other than pizza, and with dorm rooms that had little rat-holes of kitchens if they even had them at all – when I developed a heightened appreciation of food. An appreciation of food that I once ate every night at the dinner table in Dubai, but that was now an entire ocean away. I lusted for the culinary treasures that lay outside the stale walls of my college dining hall, hijacked friends’ kitchens to try my hand at something, anything , remotely edible, and greedily raided different websites in search of highly-rated restaurants. With my move to New York to work for a consulting firm that secretly harbored self-professed foodies, my appreciation transformed into a passion, an addicition. I felt like everyone around me in New York was talking about food: where to get the best cupcakes, pizza slices, banh mi, kati rolls, pho, fried chicken, and every other food item out there that is just a plain old dish in some part of the world, but that’s become hyped to unforeseen proportions in New York. What fuelled my addiction over time was travel to different cities, both for work and play, which gave me unfettered access to the culinary havens of not only New York, but also of DC, Virginia, Chicago, Houston, Vegas, Austin, Seattle and even a little city called Bentonville (Arkansas!). After 9 years away from home, I’ve finally taken the leap to come back to Dubai – with not just an awareness, but genuine appreciation and passionate addiction for what I’d taken for granted as a child. Mom, I’m back to reclaim my seat at your dinner table, and to rediscover this city with its ever-expanding menu of international flavors.

13 thoughts on “A sweet cheesy combo that would make for the Happiest of meals.

  1. Complete Foodie says:

    The Kunafah Burger is definitely a winner! I think you should skip McD’s and just take the idea global yourself, you’d need a catchy tune such as the amazing Arabia one though, or its a non starter! ;) Some amazing pictures as usual, especially the additional ones on facebook, never realised there were so many more to drool over!

  2. Yasmin says:

    The "Kunafah cheeseburger" (LOVE the name) is found all over the Middle East. I have had it in Syria, Lebanon and also in Egypt. Turkey’s streets are full of stands of ’em too, they’re delicious!

    I love your little ideas, I’m tempted to try some of them myself.

  3. Devina Divecha says:

    Oh how you make me laugh at night. Or anytime of the day.

    Anyhoo, now I’m hungry. It’s midnight…where do I get a kunafah from at this time!? Damn you :D

  4. Sarah says:

    Perfect. I would definitely buy the handbag burger! Glad you put your post up – mine’s yet to come too!

  5. Sally says:

    We call that Lebanese bread ’handbag bread’ too. I would hate to see this mass-produced and taken all over the world. I would much rather eat it in your kitchen.

  6. i.r. says:

    Well, hello there fellow Dubai-blogger! This post is mouthwatering, even though i’m not a fan of kunafa.
    I too write about my kitchen adventures in Dubai now and then (mostly disastrous), so check me out if you care :)

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Sarah – do post up soon, can’t wait to check it out!

      @Sally – Deep, deep down inside…I would much rather eat it in my kitchen too. I think making it from scratch would be too ambitious, but Al Samadi is just footsteps away from me – order. take out. plonk myself down on the kitchen table. unpack. attack. Laziness makes one so, so resourceful.

      @saleem – You bet! Can’t believe we explore this warm cheesy treasure at Al Samadi all these years…the era of kunafah ignorance has finally come to an end.

      @i.r. – Hello hello! Did check out your blog and sent you an email – can’t wait to read more about your kitchen adventures!

    1. InaFryingPan says:

      @Tarek – thank you :) so flattered that you think so!

      @FotoKina – danke! es ist eine Canon 50D :)

  7. sssourabh says:

    LOL, as Christine told me, if you’re looking at food porn, keep the screen far far away so you can actually see what you’re looking at! Haha, I did so, and then noticed :) This one I glossed over since the food porn got distracting in a cool way!


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