A piping hot layered pastry is like the Prom Queen at college - you cannot but help adore it. Even though you would rather hate it for being so perfect, so decadent, so outrageously calorific. Whether it's stuffed with sausage and cheese, or with cream and honey, I find it impossible to walk away from a stuffed layered pastry without overindulging.
The layered feteer meshaltet at the street-side Egyptian haunt Al Ammor (04 297 2778) has had me crawling back to its ovens in Abu Hail time and again. Much to the annoyance of the rushed servers, I make a habit of wiggling into the cramped aisle by the ovens, transfixed by the sight of the bakers twirling their glistening wet dough like neon stick dancers at a rave party. The feteer drama lasts for but a few precious seconds - toss and twirl in the air until the dough is clin film-thin, slap it against the counter with a startling rap, pat down the translucent base with extra dough, slather on sweet or savoury fillings, fold the sides into a neat circle and then dismiss the stuffed pastry into the fiery ovens before the drama can commence all over again.
My all-time favourite is one where the baker ladles a fat dollop of heavily processed Kraft cheese into the folds of the pastry and flecks the back of his spoon from side to side to spread the cheesy lava all over. The stuffed pastry emerges from the oven like a fat wolf, huffing and puffing with scorching steam and thirsty for the thick thread of honey that the servers generously drizzle all over it. Even friends who have pronounced the most vitriolic statements against processed cheese have been unable to stifle sighs of satisfaction after tasting this creamy, sweet and salty, blissfully soul-loving pastry.
All the lost petrol (there were many misguided turns before I first found Al Ammor), annoyed grunts (from the bustling servers I keep bumping into as I edge closer to the ovens) and painfully burnt fingers (from excitedly tugging at the pastry seconds after it emerges out of the oven) - all of it is worth every hot, flaky, irresistibly crackly bite.
Arva Ahmed founded Frying Pan Adventures (www.fryingpanadventures.com), taking people on tours through hidden culinary gems in Dubai
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