om ali & mahalabia – egyptian desserts

One of the first Egyptian foods we tried here was a dessert called Om Ali. Supposedly, it was introduced by an Irish wife of a ruler way back, it’s a bunch of filo dough soaked in sweet milk with nuts and baked. Healthy it is not. We tried a more street-local version our first night with walnuts in it that was good, then the next day we headed to a fancy hotel buffet and had the rich version of it with almonds (and it was much more well done to boot). The pastry becomes saturated and really soft, soft enough to cut through with a spoon. You spoon it out, along with some sweetened hot milk – the stuff is floating in it there’s so much – and sit down with a bowl of sweetness.

Mahalabia was, funny enough, the last dessert we were able to try in Egypt. It was at a tiny koshary place and was pre-prepared and stored in little cups, so I don’t think that we got the full extent of this dessert. It’s a kind of thick milk pudding, flavoured with rose water and coconut. What we got was good, but I felt like it could be even more. From doing a little bit of research on recipes, it seems that it’s just hot milk, sugar, and cornstarch with coconut mixed in, and even the coconut is optional. Rose water is usually used, though I also saw references to vanilla. It’ll be worth a try making, if for nothing else than for variety. Chris had high hopes dashed on this one, though I still noticed her cup empty at the end…

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