Tropical Kataifi/Kunafeh: My Mom’s Genes


“Vision without traction is merely a hallucination,” Says Gino Wikman, the book author.

Probably, loss of traction or distraction is the worst impact of COVID-19.

Ostensibly, our survival instinct is taking over while the thriving mode is unapologetically switched off.

Our freshly-set vision boards on are the back burners, our quarterly goals seem unrealistic, and uncertainty pervades our existence.

In the middle of the chaos, I took twenty minutes yesterday to check in with myself and lamentably, I figured that I almost missed some multi self-set deadlines due to the invasive DISTRACTION Syndrome.

The blog post of International Women’s Day was one of the things that I missed.

That said, better late than never.  What supposed to be last week’s post is today’s top priority.

My mom,  this post is for you.  It is never too late to celebrate a wonderful woman even ten days past International Women’s Day.

In my book, my mom is the most resourceful home cook I have known.  She always managed to concoct dishes in a snap, relying on seasonal ingredients and mundane pantry items.  Seldom anything in her fridge or pantry went to waste.

I wouldn’t call all her dishes personal favorites, but I definitely marveled at her culinary wit.

Her forte, by far, is her rich plant-based repertoire.  The long fasting period of Egyptian Chrisitan Orthodox (266 days a year) ignited her unmatched creativity to concoct easy-fix dishes that are deliciously meatless and utterly flavorsome.

Given that my siblings’ birthdays fall in lent (when Copt Christian Orthodox observe a plant-based diet), my mom never ceased to wow her guests with a large table covered with a signature set of delectable, vegan dishes of hers.

Her eggless aioli (made out of mashed potatoes), and a dairy-free decadent chocolate cake decorated with a glistening chocolate ganache, undisputedly made her fame.

With that being said, it is not unusual to inherit some of my mom’s culinary genes, which came in so handy last week, when I hosted 25 people for a plant-based lunch.

While most savory dishes were heavily inspired by the Mediterranean cuisine, I improvised with the sweet ones exactly like how my mom used to do during the lent.

Initially, the idea of Kunafeh cups was sparked by the marvelous blogger behind  Nivin’s Kitchen who posted am impressive Kunafe cups on her IG stories.

In what seems to be a fusion state of mind, my current journey in Singapore inevitably took my Middle Eastern Kunafeh (aka as Kataifi) to a likely tropical direction.

In a tropical endeavor, I swapped in coconut oil for ghee as a binding agent. And used the same oil to grease the mini-tarts molds.  And while they were getting baked in a preheated oven, I fixed two eggless puddings; coconut and mango.

Assembling mini-tart kunafeh (when all the ingredients were cold), didn’t take more than 25 minutes, probably one minute each.

Those cute colorful tarts didn’t last much on our dessert table.  They were hailed as a refreshing, gossamer shell encasing a feather-light, pillowy, tropical puddings.

I intentionally minimized the amount of sugar in this dessert to challenge the stereotype of heavily sweetened Middle Eastern desserts.

Culinary creativity is bondless, but I will always owe the first spark to my mom.

Tropical Kunafe/Kataifi Mini Tarts

Makes 24 


Kunafe Cups

  • 500 Grams of Kunafe
  • 3/4 to 1 cup of liquid coconut oil, plus two tablespoons to grease the molds.
  • 1 tablespoon of icing sugar

Coconut Pudding 

  • 1 cup of coconut cream
  • 1 cup and 1/4 cup of water, separated
  • 3 tablespoon of cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla

Mango Pudding 

  • 1 cup of mango puree
  • 1 cup and 1/4 cup of water, separated
  • 3 tablespoons of cornflour
  • 1 tablespoon of icing sugar

For Decoration 

  • Coconut flakes
  • Mango slices
  • Mint leaves


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 °.
  2. Prepare the kunafeh tarts. Cut the long strands of Kataife or Kunafeh, using scissors, into approx. 5 cm each. Mix the Kunafeh with one tablespoon of icing sugar and 3/4 to 1 cup of liquid coconut oil (see notes).
  3. Bake the Kunafeh. Line the mini-tarts molds with the kunafeh strands all the way up of the mold sides as Kunafeh strands tend to shrink down when they are baked. Bake for 20 minutes or until the kunafeh strands crisp up and become golden. Let the mini tarts come to room temperature and then chill in the fridge.
  4. Make the coconut pudding. In a medium saucepan, add the coconut cream, water, sugar, and stir. Add the cornflour diluted in a 1/4 cup of water, the vanilla, and stir until the mixture is thick enough to cover the back of a spoon. Let the pudding come to room temperature. Cover its surface with a piece of plastic film and place it in the fridge until you assemble the tarts.
  5. Make the Mango pudding. Add the mango puree, the water, and the sugar in a medium saucepan and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the diluted cornflour in water and keep stirring until the pudding is thick enough to cover the back of a spoon.
  6. Assemble the kunafeh tarts. Lay a spoonful of coconut pudding topped with another layer of mango pudding into the chilled cup. Decorate with the mango slices, coconut flakes, and mint leaves.


  • Kunafeh is the Arab name of shredded phyllo dough. It is also known as Kataifi in both Turkey and Greece.
  • The fillings options are endless for those tiny crispy tarts so get creative.

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