I only eat knafeh at Habibah, in Jordan. The last time I ate it was in 2006, when my husband and I got married.
Maybe all that waiting and pining is what makes me think it’s the best knafeh on the planet. But then again, no, I think because it’s the best knafeh on the planet, it’s worth the wait.
When we drove up to the shop I yelled “Habibah, Habibi! (darling)” the whole car started laughing at my unguarded enthusiasm.
How to describe it?
There are two kinds of knafeh; my favorite is a layer of cream that is boiled until it takes on the consistency of a rubbery stringy cheese (a bit like melted unsalted haloumi if you can imagine it). On top of that is shredded filo and then the whole lot is doused in sugar syrup. My father never understands why I insist on going to the shop itself instead of having it delivered. But I am seduced as much by the Styrofoam plate of knafeh as by the whole Habibah experience. The bright neon lighting, the ceiling high stacks of tiny baklava, the Arabic men waiting on us (no women). Mostly though, I love watching them cut up the knafeh into pieces. I hang around the counter and hope for someone to walk in with a big order, which happens almost immediately because, News Flash, this is Jordan and everyone has many many mouths to feed! Then without looking at the tray, the man behind the counter makes three stabs at the dish followed by a swoosh as he slides the slice onto a tray. It’s so fast, I want to press pause, rewind then play back in slow motion.
After watching for about 5 minutes and being asked a multitude of times if I want something (no, just a food tourist happy to gawk at the seemingly mundane) I join my father and friends at the stools outside. Peel open the lid on my plastic glass of water (I love these things, have only ever seen them in Jordan) and eat my whole plate of knafeh, even though I made myself promise I would only eat half.