If heaven on earth exists then it can be found in Saniora – a small Syrian pastry shop across from the Haseki tram stop in Istanbul’s Aksaray neighbourhood. Don’t bother searching for it on the internet. There is little written about it in Arabic and nothing at all written about it in English but perhaps there is no need. The quality of the pastries speak for themselves and word of mouth keeps this little pastry shop very busy.
The shop itself is small with little room to stand and point without being jostled by the next customer or a delivery man. There is only one table outside for seating and two more tucked inside in the back. Most of the shop is taken up by the pastry counters which display the varieties of baklawa on offer.
Imagine trays upon trays of golden crisp flaky baklawa stuffed with either pistachios or walnuts. The small phyllo parcels filled with nuts are my favorite along with the darker variety of baklawa for its more intense nuttier and buttery flavour. In the back, they prepare the künefe and the fresh cream pastries and desserts; the cream ever so delicately flavoured with rosewater.
One cream dessert in particular – Halawet el-Jibn – is a Syrian speciality and one of Anas’ favourites. Semolina and cheese are combined to create a velvety dough that is then wrapped around a creamy filling and served sprinkled with pistachios.
The richness of it all is nicely balanced with a cup of tea or Syrian coffee blended with cardamon.
Saniora is not a place of syrupy wonders. No added sugar is needed to extend the shelf life of the pastries here like in most typical baklawa shops. Here the pastries seem to disappear as fast as they appear. Trays of it leave the shop bound for weddings and other such events so you can always be sure that the pastries are fresh.
Each time we visit I usually just send Anas in and I wait patiently outside for the only table to become vacant. Being Syrian himself, it is easy for him to navigate the pastry shop by just leaning over the high glass case and elegantly ordering the pastries by name.
But the sellers are kind and patient. The last time I walked into Saniora was with my mother who was looking to order baklawa to take back to England. With so many choices, it was hard to decide especially for my mother who had only been there once before. Nevertheless, as quickly as we would point, the metal spatula would slice into ‘what-ever-deliciousness-we-were-pointing-at’ and a sample would be offered with a smile.
They have ready-made boxes of baklawa packed in different sizes or you can create your own. The boxes are quite sturdy and make lovely souvenirs to take back home. My mother brought a kilo and a half back to England without any issue taking them back on the plane. As soon as she unwrapped them, they were gone – like the magic they are.
I am grateful for Anas’ food cravings for home which have led us to what are now some of my favourite places to eat in Istanbul. Saniora is defiantly a culinary gem worth stepping off the beaten path for. It will change your relationship to Baklawa forever and introduce you to a slice of Syrian dessert heaven that you never knew existed.
Location: Saniora Tatlıları, Turgut Ozal Millet Cd. No. 58 (Right next to the Burger King) Open from 9:30 -1:30am, 7 days a week. Closest Tram Stop: Haseki
Always with love,