Visit to the Baklava Factory ~ Al Samadi Sweets

June 1st, 2013

Al Samadi Sweets  Baklava_

Who can resist baklava?

Not me. Nor could I resist this “Baklava Factory Tour” put on by Arva Ahmed of Frying Pan Adventures and the American Women’s Association of Dubai.

We visited Al Samadi Sweets, a bakery from Lebanon which dates back to 1872. Their Dubai factory (located in Qusais) didn’t actually feel like a factory. All the individual pastries are made by hand (with a little industrial help as you shall see).

Al Samadi Sweets

These pastries supply Dubai’s hotels and restaurants. So, if you live in Dubai, you may have eaten pastries from Al Samadi.

The Baklava Room

The Baklava Room is the heart of Al Samadi factory.

In case you have yet to experience this Middle Eastern/Mediterranean pastry, baklava is a delicate pastry made from layers of filo dough, a filling of nuts, lots of clarified butter and a generous dousing of scented simple syrup. It’s a flaky, nutty, lick-your-fingers type of sweet.  

Al Samadi Sweets  Baklava

The pastry has a long, complicated history. Long story, short (and some will disagree): the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul is credited for creating the original baklava, handmade with its distinctive countless layers.

Al Samadi Sweets  Baklava_

The Baklava at Al Samadi is baked in enormous trays. This should give you an idea of the size of the trays and the size of the operation.

Al Samadi Sweets trays

In case you’re wondering, the baklava at Al Samadi is baked with 18 layers of filo dough. This machine flattens the filo pastry dough into very thin layers, and it rolls many layers at once.

Filo Dough

Al Samadi Sweets  Filo dough machine_

When the baklava comes out of the oven, it’s drenched with scented simple syrup from this enormous watering can.

Al Samadi Sweets  Simple Syrup can_

The Ma’amoul Room

Ma’amoul is a festive little pastry stuffed with either dates or nuts and served on Easter and Eid throughout the Middle East. In the Ma’amoul Room, men were busy stuffing and shaping little pastries with dates.

Al Samadi Sweets  Ma'amoul makers

These tiny ma’amoul were formed by hand. Here they are after after baking.

Al Samadi Sweets Mini Ma'amoul

Naturally, we got to sample these pastries along the way.

Al Samadi Sweets  Ma'amoul samples_

However, usually ma’amoul is made with various wooden molds. The type of filling—either walnuts, pistachios, or dates—will determine the shape of the mold. These ma’amoul are ready to go in the oven.

Al Samadi Sweets Tray of Ma'amoul_

The ma’amoul makers at Al Samadi use the same type of hand-carved wooden molds that I use at home.

Ma'amoul Molds_

The Kunafe Room

Truth be told, my favorite room was the kunafe room. This is because Kunafe Nabulsia is my favorite of Arab sweets. I can’t resist the gooey sweet cheese between the shredded soft-yet-crispy pastry, all saturated in scented simple syrup. Here’s a photo of my own homemade Kunafe Nabulsia.

A slice of kunafe nablusia

We got to see the kunafe pastry being made in very long very thin threads. First, the batter is poured down a funnel.

Al Samadi Sweets Konafe dough funnel_

Then the batter comes out in threads and cooked on a large hot surface.

Al Samadi Sweets Konafe dough machine_

Then it’s gathered and folded and ready for assembly into various kunafe pastries.

Al Samadi Sweets Konafe dough wheel_Al Samadi Sweets  Kunafe dough maker_

Al Samadi Sweets  Kunafe dough making_

There are little “bird nests” filled with pistachios and made with kunafe pastry.

Al Samadi Sweets Konafe birdnests_

We watched as one of the kunafe chefs assembled kunafe with the crumbled akkawi cheese, the sweet cheese used in many Arab sweets.

Al Samadi Sweets Konafe assembly_

Lebanese Breakfast

As a final touch, Salim, the factory manager, offered us a special Lebanese breakfast—something I’ve never had before. It was a slab of kunafe pastry shoved into an Arab bread and doused with simple syrup. What a way to start your day!

Al Samadi Sweets Lebanese breakfast_

Last Stop: Al Samadi Sweet Shop

Our final stop on our tour was the actual Al Samadi Sweet Shop, located on Muraqqabat Street, where all the pastries are beautifully arranged and presented.

Al Samadi Sweets shop_

Al Samadi Sweets Yum_

Bake it yourself!

Rest assured, it is possible to bake these sweets in your own home kitchen. Please check out my step-by-step recipes for some of the pastries presented here.

Recipe: Kunafe Nabulsia ~ The Queen of Arab Sweets

Recipe: Ma’amoul ~ Date-filled Eid Pastries

Recipe: Nut-filled Ma’amoul ~ Easier than you think

Take a Tour

If you live in Dubai or are visiting, consider taking your own food tour with Frying Pan Adventures. I can’t say enough good things about Arva’s “food walks” featuring foods from the Middle East, North Africa and India. She is planning evening iftar tours in Dubai during the month of Ramadan. Meanwhile, read about my last tour with Frying Pan Adventures: Dubai Food Tour ~ North African Food Safari!

Questions: What is your favorite Arab Pastry? Have you taken a Frying Pan Tour?

  1. Linda Abuelghanam
    June 1st, 2013 at 23:34 | #1

    YUMMMMMMMM!!! I cannot wait to taste some authentic kanefe when I arrive in Jordan. I like baklava and certainly do like the home-made Ma’amoul. Yum-yum-yum!!! Thanks for the great tour, Holly!!

  2. Holly S. Warah
    Holly S. Warah
    June 1st, 2013 at 23:43 | #2

    @Linda Abuelghanam
    There is nothing like eating some fresh kunafe at a café or pastry shop on a warm evening in the Middle East … Hope you’ll be here soon, Linda!

  3. Francine Soltani
    June 1st, 2013 at 23:48 | #3

    great article and photos! We are missing that kind of food.

  4. June 2nd, 2013 at 09:12 | #4

    Love the descriptions and photos Holly, you’ve brought that sugary morning alive for me again! We are trying to formalize the tour into a more regular offering…fingers crossed we can make it happen! Thanks for the shout-out and a well-written insight into that morning with the AWA and Al Samadi.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      June 2nd, 2013 at 10:00 | #5

      HI Arva, Thanks for stopping by! Best wishes on making this tour a regular offering. Your followers will love it! 🙂

  5. Linda Szasz
    June 2nd, 2013 at 19:23 | #6

    Great job Holly. I have been talking about the tour since my daughter and I took it. You explained it much better than I could!

  6. June 2nd, 2013 at 21:18 | #7

    You had me at baklava! WOW!!!!

  7. Carmen Clarke
    June 4th, 2013 at 21:38 | #8

    Great write-up, Holly! I thought I would never hunger for Arabic sweets again after that kunafe-bread breakfast, but your images and descriptions got me excited again! Al Samadi, here I come!

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      June 8th, 2013 at 11:09 | #9

      HI Carmen, I felt the same way about the pastries when I left, but now they sound pretty good again! Thank you so much for organizing this *wonderful* outing.

  8. June 6th, 2013 at 06:13 | #10

    Hi Holly! I am your new reader. Your blog is amazing, and I am definitely amazed with your tour. Can’t resist of this Baklava and the rest of the pastry. Yum!

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      June 8th, 2013 at 11:05 | #11

      Hi Action in Kitchen,
      Thanks for reading & for the kind words. You have a fantastic blog, too, and I am following you now. I only wish there was a name and face behind your blog. 😉

  9. June 8th, 2013 at 23:39 | #12

    yuummm!! i would love to buy some of this fresh kunafa dough !

  10. Jeannie Neely
    June 12th, 2013 at 23:01 | #13

    Now I know how all those lovely things I was eating in Dubai are made, thanks Holly! I spent many hours in the gym paying for the sweet sins.
    Jeannie

  11. Tasqeen
    June 17th, 2013 at 22:10 | #14

    Hi Holly,

    Just googled Al Samadi sweets because I thought I’d order birds nests for Ramadaan. What a lovely surprise to see arabiczeal.com as the first hit on google. 🙂

    Tasqeen

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      June 18th, 2013 at 13:00 | #15

      Hi Tasqeen, That is so awesome! Thank you for stopping by & letting me know. Wishing you a lovely Ramadan with you & your family. All the best.

  12. September 30th, 2013 at 23:46 | #16

    Wow MashaAllah sweets of all kinds yummy!
    Thanks for this tour…will try them all when in Dubai again!

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      October 3rd, 2013 at 10:35 | #17

      HI Mira,
      Thanks for reading & stopping by. 🙂

  13. January 9th, 2014 at 14:50 | #18

    I want visit your factory please provide location details or contact
    Waiting for response

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      January 15th, 2014 at 20:12 | #19

      It’s not my factory. I just visited it. You can try searching online for Al Samadi Sweets in Dubai and see what you find. Good luck.

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      February 6th, 2014 at 11:07 | #20

      HI Sharad, you’ll have to goggle the factory & contact them yourself. I went on a private tour of the place. I don’t work for the bakalava factory. 🙂

  14. Sarala naidu
    March 7th, 2014 at 08:57 | #21

    Hi Holly,
    Loved your write up on the desserts famous in Dubai , I assumed that the baklava was famous in Turkey and was not available in Dubai if only I had read your blog earlier I would have visited the factory and enjoyed the desserts and the Lebanese breakfast . I wish that they would open a store in Bangalore, India.

  15. Shashi sarawgi
    June 1st, 2014 at 22:24 | #22

    Need to order 50 kg baklava guide us how to do for Kathmandu wedding

    • Holly S. Warah
      Holly S. Warah
      July 18th, 2014 at 01:47 | #23

      I have no idea. Good luck.

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