August 22, 2021
During my trip to Athens, I am discovering one of the best desserts in the World – the kataifi which is a Greek and Turkish favorite. Kataifi is a phyllo pastry somewhat similar to the baklava. The main difference is in the outer shell.
The baklava is made with a very thin phyllo dough which when baked, becomes paper-thin and flaky. The dough of the kataifi, on the other hand, is spun into a vermicelli-style shredded phyllo. It almost looks like a cake of dry Chinese egg noodles, for the lack of a better analogy.
In fact, these “noodles” are called “kadaif noodles”. They are very thin Turkish noodles typically used to make desserts. These thread-like noodles, when fried or baked, become very crispy. That’s why the shell of a kataifi delivers a nice crunch when you bite into the dessert.
So, in a nutshell, the shell of a baklava is thin and flaky while the shell of a kataifi is noodle-like and crunchy.
The fillings of both the baklava and kataifi are actually somewhat similar. They are usually a blend of coarsely chopped nuts, such as walnuts and pistachios, mixed with honey and a light cream. Although the sweetness is rather intense, it doesn’t feel overwhelming. It goes well with a cup of strong Turkish coffee.
In Athens, they are readily available in most bakeries, cafes, and shops. You can also easily find them in souvenir shops around Monastiraki Square and the Plaka District.
Both kataifi and baklava travel well if you want to bring some home. You can find them in packages with clear expiration dates. If you place them in your carryon luggage, you will most likely find them all intact when you get home.
After walking for almost half a day at the Acropolis Museum, I am now taking a break at the restaurant on the second floor of the building and enjoying a kataifi with a scoop of ice cream and a cup of coffee.