It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where and when ‘konafa’, which is derived from the Arabic word ‘kanaf,’ meaning ‘to shelter’, came to be known as the delicious dessert we all enjoy today. For generations, konafa was usually made using shredded noodles or shredded phyllo dough, and is sometimes filled with clotted cream (qeshta), raisins, or pistachios. The final creation is baked until it turns golden brown, and is topped with syrup that’s made from sugar and water. Today, what was once a simple dessert, has transformed into a Willie Wonka inspired concoction.
Every Ramadan, people anticipate the new konafa flavors that dessert shops put out around the city. Over the past few years, dessert shops in Egypt especially, have been creating innovative sugary treats, and some have even become cult classics, like the red velvet konafa. However, one dessert shop specifically, has been pushing the envelope even further when it comes to the ever evolving dish.
“We wouldn’t make konafa with herbs, for example, it would not make sense. When we create new flavors, it creates a buzz in the market which helps spread our brand. When it creates a buzz on social media, for me, it has already fulfilled its marketing goals, even if it didn’t sell as well.”Mohamed Nayef, Sales & Marketing Manager, Etoile
In the 21st century, the first big change happened when mango was introduced. People loved it, and began to demand the classic dish with different flavors, like pomegranate or bananas. The chefs experiment with all sorts of foods, even when the experiments do not generate revenue, sometimes creating a social media buzz is enough of a success. “When we create new flavors, it creates a buzz in the market, which helps spread our brand. When it creates a buzz on social media, for me, it has already fulfilled its marketing goals, even if it didn’t sell as well,” said Mohamed Nayef, Marketing Manager of Etoile.
In 2019, Etoile introduced konafa with Coca-Cola, dried fruit, and hibiscus. Hamdi El Gendy, Etoile’s dessert manager said, “This year our products did really well, brought us profit, and increased our market share.”
Etoile’s unique flavors stem from two departments, their R&D and marketing departments. Four to five months before Ramadan, Etoile starts working on their konafa creations; some remain popular for years, such as mango and Nutella, but others like watermelon, are quickly swept under the rug.
As with every new product, Nayef and the team anticipate negative feedback. However, their main mission is to cater to Egyptian tastes, which is constantly changing – but one thing remains certain; it’s difficult not to find konafa in one form or the other at an Egyptian household during Ramadan – because it isn’t just a slice of dessert; it’s a slice of history.
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