Koueider that has been in town for generations – way before the expansion of all the oriental patisseries and also before there was ever Mandarine Koueider.
This year, Abdel-Rahim Koueider is offering its old recipes on a mega-scale, along with the more updated versions of konafa and katayef and a whole host of delights.
Konafa bel-kerima (konafa filled with processed crème fraiche and ricotta cheese) is certainly worth trying from the many outlets of Abdel-Rahim Kouedier and also from its outlets stationed at the corners of several supermarkets including Carrefour which makes it an easier shopping experience.
A kilo is sold at a reasonable LE48 – way below the prices of exactly the same kounafa at other patisseries which is not always as good as what is offered by what many would consider to be “the original house of Kounafa.”
For over a decade Le Carnaval has been offering exceptionally delicious oriental sweets, and this year, it is living up to its well-established reputation as the place where one can find real quality patisserie at steep prices.
Konafa bel-manga (konafa with a paste of whipped cream and mango filling/topping) is available at many places but certainly it is the lightest at Le Carnaval, and if you buy it at around 2pm, you are also getting it fresh.
Le Carnaval is offering its konafa bel-manga in a ball with layers of konafa-cream-mango, which is good for an iftar of five to six people, in a cake-shape with a filling of mango and cream and a topping of mango and cherries, which is good enough for up to ten people, or simply as the ‘asswar’ (in small circle units) version sold for LE230 per kilo.
The “asswar” selection at Le Carnaval is complete without the house-name tradition of kounafa covered in marrons glaces, at LE290.
The un-fried kateyef at Le Carnaval are also living up to the tradition established by the chefs of this patisserie – with fillings including whipped cream and marrons glaces, cream and pistachios, or cream and chocolate chips.
Those are not sold by kilo but in little cartoon packets with each having two of each recipe – at LE25 per packet for the ones filled with cream and pistachios or cream and chocolate chips and LE35 for the ones with marrons glaces. The syrup is served independently in small plastic balls.
In a sense nothing comes close to the kounafa and katayef of the original -- two small Heliopolis/ Nasr City stores launched by three fine ladies with a strong passion to bake at the very late of the 1970s.
Les Dames is perhaps the only patisserie that has this home-made touch, and the quality of Les Dames is never compromised.
At a very reasonable LE65 per kilo, the traditional kateyef with hazelnuts are unfailing good: perfect fry, perfect sweetening and never heavy.
And if you are an old customer, Les Dames is not just offering you brilliant kateyef but it is also bringing the warmth of lots of memories of many Ramadans past to this year’s Ramadan evening.
This is not where the traditional recipes are meant to be found – after all there are no serious chances for a cupcake patisserie to master the old ways of doing Ramadan’s inevitable konafa and kateyef.
Actually, kateyef are only there for you if you call the catering service to place an order at least 24 hours in advance.
The konafa, however, is offered at many varieties – the most popular are the small diverse balls filled with the layers of konafa, cream and anything ranging from chocolate spreads, red velvet crumbs, banana, mango or crème brulee.
Each cup is more than an enough for a dessert for one person and each is sold at LE20.
The only trouble with buying less than 10 cups is that your box will be too empty because often they don’t have the right size of boxes for someone who is not planning a big dessert event.
Your children might well indulge in the chocolate or red velvet konafa – but your mother-in-law and your mother might well agree that this is a dessert suffering from an identity crisis.
It was not originally “Le” Fashwar – not when it first came to Cairo from Damiatta – but so it has become. And along with the new “Le” came lots of new varieties.
However, the “Le” is not helping with the westernised recipes of the konafa and kateyef – nor is it for that matter stripping the good old place from its excellent grip of traditional and not so traditional recipes.
At LE50, a kilo of kateyef with cream filling from Le Fashwar is close to perfect: smooth on the inside and crunchy on the outside.
The filling is slightly too little but the leftovers are really good on the second day – and one does not need to resort to the fridge.
Konafa bel-cremah-wel-balah (konafa with dates) is again, perhaps for the fifth year, proving to be the top choice for Mandarine Koueider’s Ramadan delights.
Unlike the many patisseries that just pile up the layers of uncooked konafa, slightly – or heavily - caramelised dates and creams in a ball, Mandarine is actually selling oven-baked konafa rolls filled with cream and dates with traditional syrup sweetening at LE65 per kilo.
If you are not planning to queue up from the early afternoon then you need to place an order the day before.
The best way to combine this choice is two orders of kateyef with cream, which are usually perfectly fried and not excessively sweetened, at LE50 per kilo; and kateyef with nuts at LE65.
The incredible demand on Mandarine Koueider means that everything is ever so fresh but it also means that the pressure on the kitchen might allow the konafa rolls to slightly untighten or see the kateyef over-dipped in the syrup - thus making leftovers less appealing. Of course, that is only a problem if there are any leftovers.
Of the many places that have been venturing into konafa infusions, La Poire is perhaps one of the very few that is managing to keep the konafa-bel-balah very close to the original taste of konafa.
It does come in a ball with layered ingredients but it must be the portions that the chef dedicates to each of the layers that rescues the recipe from being a Ramadan dessert with a bit of konafa in it to actually being konafa.
The chef is also sensitive to keep the dish naturally sweet – depending probably on extracting enough natural sugar from dates by having them slightly warmed before they are integrated in the midst of the konafa, decent quality whipped cream, and carefully mixed caramel sauce.
For the topping there is a spread of croquant that is not exaggerated, and just about enough pistachios to make sure that the nut neutralises any excessive sense of sweetness.
A ball that could serve sufficiently for a generous dessert for some eight people is available at LE150 – and you can add another LE15 and have it in a tin if you wish to keep it fresh in your fridge.
The nicely decorated tins are always good to keep for homemade cakes.
Sale Sucre adds cinnamon to their konafa-bel-crema-wel-balah (konafa with cream and dates) to make sure that its recipe is different from competing patisseries.
It also offers one of the more indulgent konafa-bel-manga (konafa with mango) concoctions among a wide variety of above average, in terms of quality and price, Ramadan desserts.
But one of the exceptionally strong points for Sale Sucre is the very traditional konafa with nuts. It might be the rose water that Sale Sucre's chef knows very well how to add perfectly to the konafa or it might be what seems to be the perfect roasting of the nuts that fill the konafa which is sold in the sliced rolls form at LE70.
Sweet Center – Souffle
Of the incredibly large diversity of oriental sweets at Sweet Center – Souffle, the ball of konafa with berries does look very appealing.
At LE130, it is certainly good enough for six to eight people – who would have to have a seriously sweet tooth – and it is really very sweet; too sweet for anything that is made with berries.
But it is certainly the kind of dessert that many people would find satisfying in the wake of a rich iftar and for sure something that younger fasting members of the family will enjoy.
However, if you are at Sweet Center – Souffle and you want a more traditional and slightly less sweet choice you can confidently opt for their kateyef with walnuts.
If you are one of those very many people who like your kateyef slightly over-fried, then you are at the right place, with a kilo sold at LE85.
Your grandmother or your father probably used to get you the perfect swiss rolls from this long-established patisserie, and you may be still following the family tradition.
But you should never constrain your perception of Tseppas as the place of brilliant rolls filled with apricot jam and topped with hazelnut crisps.
It is a place where you can confidently venture to for Ramadan delights – especially if you are looking for the close-to-homemade quality katayef with hazelnut: the crunch, the syrup and the texture are all right. And yes, the price feels right at LE60.