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These Middle Eastern Pastries Get Fried, Not Baked

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These cookies, which have a resemblance to baklava, are both crunchy and moist. The thinnest pastry is wrapped around finely ground nuts to form triangles that are fried and then dipped in sugar syrup.

Photo by Linda Xiao

The pastry stays crisp while the nuts sop up the syrup, resulting in a wonderful contrast of crunchy and soft in each bite that makes samsa totally irresistible.


In Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria, the pastry normally used is warqa or malsuqa, also known as brik, but you can use phyllo. The size of phyllo sheets varies according to the brand. The Greek and Turkish brands are generally larger and thinner than supermarket brands.

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Samsa (Almond-Orange Triangles)

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar Anissa Helou

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Makes 24 triangles

For the plain sugar syrup:

  • 2 cups superfine sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water

For the filling and assembly:

  • 1 2/3 cups blanched almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons rose water
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds
  • 12 sheets brik or phyllo pastry
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • sunflower oil, for frying

Excerpted from the book Sweet Middle East by Anissa Helou (Chronicle Books, 2015).

Tags: cookies, cookie map, cookie world map, samsa, middle east, sweet middle east