Abu Ashraf's small, homey shop Diwan al-Saraya, famous for his qatayef—those would be tiny folded pancakes—is the sort of place you'll see written up in guidebooks and articles and TV specials. (And, hey, food-lovin' websites.) But it's pretty clear why this incredibly mediagenic man gets the press he does.
There are the qatayef themselves—delicate, spongy pancakes filled with cinnamon and walnuts or salty goat cheese. But the avuncular Ashraf, who speaks of his work in the loving manner of many who devote their life to one skill, is the real charmer. He's owned the business for 33 years and, while the kataifi aren't all they sell, it's what he's known for best. The pancakes are usually eaten as a dessert during Ramadan, part of a nighttime meal that breaks the day's fast, but Ashraf sells them all year.
He works delicately and deliberately, first griddling up hundreds of the two-inch pancakes...
and then, for each order, stuffing each one...
before they're fried (!)...
and doused in orange blossom syrup.
The result is a crisp-edged cake with an appealingly oozy center; I particularly loved the saltiness of the melted goat cheese cradled in dough and sweetened with the faintly floral syrup.
Just about the only thing that can cut through all that richness? Ashraf's incredibly rich, cardamom-speckled coffee. One shot gets your heart racing—and gets you ready for another few pancakes. My kind of breakfast.
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Editor's note: Carey was on a culinary tour of Israel through Taste of Israel.
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