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Make Mansoura Middle Eastern Bakery (515) Kings Highway; 718-546-7977) your fist stop. Alan Mansoura was born into a long line of Syrian bakers in Cairo, and with wife Josiane and sons, Ike and David; he's preserving the tradition for the future. Their handmade sesame-sprinkled pastries filled with cheese, meat, or spinach come in a gorgeous variety of shapes and sizes and are bound to delight lovers of Indian samosas or Latin empanadas. Sambusik are half-moons of pie-crust-type pastry; mora are made with phyllo dough. My favorites are the lahmajine, savory little dough rounds topped with ground lamb, pine nuts, tamarind, and tomato paste. They're ideal for quick dinners or cocktail-party hors d'oeuvre. Josiane Mansoura cures her own bottarga, compressed caviar, called batarekh in her native Morocco. At $55 per half pound chunk, it's worth every cent, as you'll see when you shave it over a buttered baguette or hot pasta.

Mansoura is also one of the few remaining practitioners of the art of Mediterranean confectionery. Traditional treats like balls of apricot paste are worked with fresh pistachios, and Turkish delight, a rose-water flavored pistachio confection, is made according to an ancient recipe. Mansoura's kaak (rings of pastry crisped with salt and sesame seeds) are easily the best on Kings Highway. Everything comes in finger friendly proportions: rounds, diamonds, squares- the nibbling opportunities are endless. Be sure to sample the crisp cookies filled with toasty cinnamon-date paste.

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Mansoura Pastries (515 Kings Highway, 718-645-7977), owned by 69-year-old Isaac Mansoura and his son, Allen, 39. The elder Mansoura is an Egyptian who moved here from Cairo when Nasser came to power. "Farouk and Nasser were customers in my pastry shop, but still I had to leave," he says. The baklava made in this airy, old-fashioned store is light with honey, flowery with rose water, and not as cloyingly sweet as other Turkish pastries (walnut or pistachio). The burekas, bite-size, triangle-shaped phyllo-wrapped pastries filled with either Muenster cheese or spinach, are superlative, and freeze well. The other cocktail canapes-bite-size frozen pies filled with ground lamb seasoned with allspice and black pepper. The baba ghannouj here is thick and pulpy, flecked with parsley and green pepper, and full of garlic. Mansoura's also makes Syrian ice cream. The apricot, a thick slushy, icy puree of dried apricots, is nothing short of celestial. In May, there'll be pistachio, strawberry, and vanilla.

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Patriarch Isaac Mansoura started this bakery with recipes that migrated with his family for generations, from Syria to Egypt to Paris, and finally to Brooklyn in 1961. The quality of the Middle Eastern confectionery is unsurpassed. Baklava, filled with fresh walnuts or moist pistachios, are sticky yet crisp, each layer of phyllo pastry miraculously distinct. Mamoul cookies are precious packets—barely sweet pastry filled with date puree or pistachio sweetmeat. The shop itself, with an iconic cursive sign and wood-paneled interior, may be a trek for some. Luckily, you can order the treats at Must-trys: Baklava, $20/lb; mamoul, a dozen for $12; apricot roll, $20/lb; Turkish delight, $20/lb.

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The ultimate treat is Mansoura's. This pastry shop was opened in 1961 by Isaac Mansoursa, who had been a famous caterer in Cairo, greeting customers personally, exuding Egyptian hospitality. As a child, I would go there with my dad, who loved it with a passion. He and Mansoura would chat in Arabic, inquire about each other's health, and only then get down to business, selecting the pastries we would take home in a little white box tied up with a red string.

Mansoura died a couple of months ago, and it was with some trepidation that I entered his store. The counter was being manned by his young grandson. At the back, I could see his son and daughter-in-law, busy readying platters of pastries. Mansoura's tradition is continuing, Josiane assures me. Yet she also says they will be "expanding," that distinctly American practice the elder Mansoura had shunned. I have already detected some disturbing compromises with modernity... it is now possible to buy frozen delicacies and heat them in the comfort of home.

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Zagat Survey: 2001 New York City Marketplace

Their baklava, pistachio-packed Turkish delight, semolina cakes and savory pastries are standouts

Zagat Survey: 2002 New York City Marketplace

"Vast array of authentic goodies"

Zagat Survey: 2003 New York City Marketplace

"They’ve been around for a long time" and that alone is "testament to their stuff"

Zagat Survey: 2004 New York City Marketplace

"Authentic" "wonderful selection"

Zagat Survey: 2005 New York City Marketplace

"Authentic" Middle Eastern and Mediterranean pastries

Zagat Survey: 2006 New York City Marketplace

"Quality" baklava, kataifi and maamoul. Candy, cookies and hors d'oeuvres considered a "cut-above"

Zagat Survey: 2007 New York City Marketplace

Known for its "authentic" Middle Eastern and Mediterranean pastries, candy, cookies and hors d'oeuvres considered a "cut-above"

Zagat Survey: 2008 New York City Gourmet Shopping & Entertaining

"It's the real thing" agree effendis at this Midwood bakery

Zagat Survey: 2009 New York City Gourmet Shopping & Entertaining

"It's the real thing", "great pastries and candies" are highlights of a lineup that also includes confections and hors d'oeuvres

Zagat Survey: 2009 Best of Brooklyn

"Taste of the Middle east and Mediterranean"

Zagat Survey: 2010 New York City Food Lover’s Guide

"Wonderful old world” “delicious” pastries

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The Brooklyn headquarters for Syrian delicacies must be Mansoura's pastry shop, an unchic, rose water-scented store on Kings Highway. It's the kind of place where people go as much hang out as to buy - but many of its customers never walk in the door. "I send orders to Brazil, Switzerland, and Argentina," says Josiane Mansoura, co-proprietor of the place with her husband, Alan. Mansoura's apricot-pistachio logs are unsurpassed.

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Isaac and Albert Mansoura, father and son and the fourth and fifth generation of bakers... trace their roots to Aleppo... Isaac still makes the pistachio-and-apricot ice cream he says King Farouk used to order for banquets when the Mansouras owned a bakery on Haran el Rasheed Street in Cairo in the 1950's. Sometimes, he said, visitors ask him whether the ornamental pastries he bakes are decorated and cut into elaborate shapes with a machine.

"I tell them I do everything by hand, that it’s an art," he said proudly. "I taught this art to my son, and he is teaching it to his son. It is a tradition, and you have to love it."


Along Kings Highway, where Arabic-Jewish stores line both sides of the street, Mansoura's is perhaps the oldest, dating back to the early 1960s. But the name and the family tradition of selling Middle Eastern pastries goes back about 200 years. The Mansoura family had a well known shop in Aleppo, Syria, and when they moved to Cairo in the early 1900s, they re-established the business there, and their pastries- always kosher -were favored throughout Cairo society.

The family left Egypt for France in 1957, and the late Isaac Mansoura opened a shop at this location soon after he arrived in New York. The Syrian community that was already in Brooklyn knew the name, and as Josiane Mansoura, who now runs the business with her husband Alan, explains, they continue to learn about the family's history from their customers. They are told that the name Mansoura, which means victory, is still visible on their former shop in Cairo.

At Mansoura's the pastries are an aesthetic as well as culinary pleasure. The different varieties of baklava, made with pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds, in different shapes; kaniffa, a similar pastry that looks like it's wrapped in shredded wheat; Turkish Delight, a rose-water flavored pistachio confection ("It grows on you," Mansoura urges, and it does, with a few bites"); almond fingers, semolina cakes, date cookies and more are beautifully arranged in the window and showcases. She knows the names of each in the various Arabic dialects she hears in the store.

"We're very Americanized," she says, "but we’re still very authentic." They use family recipes dating back to their origins in Syria. They also sell a rolled confection of apricot paste with pistachios and hand-dipped chocolates. More savory are the ka'ak, sesame cookies with a variety of spices. The pastries and chocolates are all pareve. And then is their freezer, they sell horsd'ouvres, made with phyllo or pastry crust, both meat and dairy - made in separate kitchens - including crescent-shaped sambussak with spinach and cheese; kibbe, pastellas and cigars, all made with spicy meat.

Josiane Mansoura, who was born in Morocco, does a lot of the baking and is up front serving customers, with a large dose of hospitality. She seems to know everyone who comes in, remembering the sisters and cousin of one client, asking after the French-speaking father of another. There are no strangers, as she quickly befriends those she hasn't met before. "Good people come here," she says. And they seem to come back.

Mansoura has customers all over the world, and do a lot of mail-order. If someone in Manhattan needs pastries in a hurry, they'll load a tray onto the back seat of a car service and send it over.


Rethink the old year, look ahead to filling the New Year with more kindness, generosity, beauty, with new tastes, words and stories. The Mansoura family has been baking traditional Middle Eastern pastries for more than 200 years, first in Aleppo, Syria, then in Cairo, Egypt, and now on Kings Highway in Brooklyn. Their Cairo café and restaurant, which they operated from 1910 until 1958, when the family had to leave Egypt, was one of that city’s most elegant institutions, frequented by actors, politicians, business people, even King Farouk.

Now they have been in the same Brooklyn location for more than 50 years, using recipes that have been handed down over five generations, still turning out distinctive and delicious baklava, kataifi, Turkish delight, hand-dipped chocolates, biscotti, roasted pistachios and more, kosher and pareve.

Their maamoul, a Syrian-Lebanese handmade pastry filled with imported pistachios or freshly ground date paste, is a traditional Jewish New Year treat. A gift package features 16 pieces, dusted with powdered sugar, packed in a Mansoura signature tin.

The fragrant shop, filled with the warmth of Josiane Mansoura and family, is well worth a visit, but it also offers mail order, with quick delivery available.

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Tuesday January 27, 2009
Brooklyn News section Page 12

Sweet, sugary relief to winter blues

Boro's bakeries full of delights
By Denise Romano

IT IS the coldest month of the year, and most of you must be craving a lil' somethin' sweet to help forget about the winter blahs. Brooklyn News has made a list of places around the boro that sell all sorts of sugary delights to brighten your day.

Mansoura, 515 Kings Highway, (718) 645-7977 For the finest Mediterranean deserts, Mansoura is the place to go. Only the finest recipes that have been in families for more than 200 years from Greece, Turkey, Syria, Israel and Lebanon are used. Mansoura has a full line of macaroons, Belgian chocolates, baklava, and butter cookies. Be sure to try the loukoum, or "Turkish delight," which is a rose-water flavored pistachio confection dipped in chocolate.


Sunday May 13, 2012

Eating Along the Q Line: Mansoura Pastries specializes in Middle Eastern treats

The baklava and Turkish Delight have been a family tradition for more than 200 years
By Patty Lee

Baking is a 200-year-old tradition for the family behind Mansoura Pastries.

The Kings Highway shop opened in 1961, but the Mansouras’ legacy goes back much further, spanning three continents.

Originally from Aleppo, Syria — they opened their first bakery around 1780 — the family moved to Cairo and Paris before coming to Brooklyn.

Once in the borough, the Mansouras went back to doing what they did best: baking.

The ancient recipes have all been passed down from “generation to generation,” says Jack Mansoura, who now runs the shop with brother David.

Located between E. 2nd and E. 3rd Sts., the bakery is a bit of a trek from the Q train station, but with all the calories to be consumed, a walk doesn’t hurt.

Mansoura specializes in Middle Eastern pastries like baklava.

“It’s made with multiple fine layers of filo dough and nuts and topped with sugar syrup and honey,” explains Mansoura.

The crispy Turkish treats, which are cut into diamond shapes, come in several flavors (almond, pistachio and walnut are some of the most popular) and are accented with an orange blossom-infused syrup.

They also make Turkish delight, a crunchy candy with chopped pistachios and rosewater, and gourmet chocolates.

“We have some of the best chocolate pretzels,” says Mansoura. “Everything is made in the shop.”

Brooklynites aren’t the only ones who flock to the bakery to satisfy their sugar cravings.

Long popular with the local community, Mansoura sees customers coming in, not just from other boroughs, but other parts of the world.

“We have people who bring them back in their suitcase.”

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Cairene Comestibles
By Max Gross

A FEW YEARS AGO, David, a young Brooklyn native, was on vacation in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula when he met a stranger from Cairo.

After chatting amicably for a few minutes, David mentioned that his family was originally from Heliopolis, a Cairo suburb, where they once owned a bakery.

David's new friend asked him his last name.

"Mansoura," David replied.

His new friend's eyes widened.

"Mansoura of the pastries?"

The Mansoura bakery in Egypt closed almost half a century ago, but its legend was still alive and well to the people of Heliopolis, where it once took up a full city block, complete with café and garden.

"This guy was not old," David recalled. "He was only like 30 or so, so he couldn’t have ever been there himself." But David's new acquaintance was excited enough to introduce David to other Egyptians as the Mansoura heir, and to tell David that the sign for his grandfather's bakery was still up.

Everyone was impressed.

Even before they were famous in Egypt, Mansouras were bakers in Aleppo, Syria, for a hundred years before that. And even if the Egyptian Mansoura of yesteryear is no more, the Mansoura clan has kept the family tradition alive in Brooklyn, with its kosher bakery on Kings Highway.

The Mansouras left Egypt in 1958 as the situation for the country's Jews worsened, following the rise to power of the warmongering, anti-Semitic Colonel Gamal Abdel-Nasser. "They boycotted my father's store," said David's father, Alan. "And they threw Molotov cocktails through the windows." Alan's father settled in Brooklyn, where he set up shop in 1961. Ever since then, the transplanted bakery has been a local-and an international-favorite.

"We get orders from everywhere," said Alan's Moroccan-born wife, Josiane. "Florida, Brazil, even Panama."

Josiane said that the family even gets fan mail. She recalled a letter she received from an Egyptian Jewish expat. "They said that they were seven years old, and they remember leaving Egypt, and their last stop was Mansoura," Josiane said with a grin.

David Mansoura, now age 28, has toyed with the idea of expanding; either moving to Manhattan or opening up a cafe. ("Do you think I should?" David asked The Eater with a nervous smile.) For now, Mansoura is one of the borough's handful of Sephardic Jewish bakeries that serve up kosher versions of Middle Eastern delights, like baklava, burekas, and sweet, moist basbousas, orange-hued Egyptian cakes made with almonds.

Everything is prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary laws, which forbid the mixing of meat and milk, so almost nothing is made with butter. Yet the taste, surprisingly, does not suffer. (The few dairy items, such as the cheese burekas, are made separately and kept in their own cases.)

There are Syrian specialties, like kaak, a small, pretzel-like lasso sprinkled with sesame seeds; kibbeh, balls of cracked wheat and meat; and the more obscure meat delicacy, basterma.

"Basterma came before pastrami," Josiane insisted. Basterma is originally an Armenian dish-a leathery, spicy dried beef that many believe to be a forerunner to the more familiar European Jewish meat dish served up at local establishments like Katz's Deli. The Mansouras cure their own basterma, hanging cuts of beef for about two weeks and salting and seasoning them with paprika, garlic, and other spices. It retails for $25 per pound.

"The original way to make it is with camel," said Alan, who, despite being as much of a basterma expert as anyone else, admitted that he has never tasted it made the original way. "Nobody has it that way anymore," he said.

The Eater was offered a pita overflowing with basterma, which was—like almost everything else at Mansoura-exotic yet delicious.

Both father and son were pleased that The Eater had such a positive reaction. David, in particular, was beaming.

"I sort of fell into it," David said of the family business. His brother became an accountant, his sister a physical therapist; he is the only one to have gone into the bakery. "We all helped out, growing up," David said.

"The thing about this business is the kids watch you," Alan said. "It's a tough business, and it's labor-intensive. It's one of the reasons you don’t like to get workers... Nobody works like your family."

Alan smiled at his son.

A few minutes later, The Eater was led out of the store, loaded with a box of Mansoura's goodies.

"Come back soon," David said at the door.

He then turned and went back into his bakery-and into hundreds of years of Mansoura family history.

Mansoura Middle Eastern Bakery, 515 Kings Highway, Gravesend (F to Kings Highway) 718-645-7977.

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Best Ka'ak On the Block: Mansoura’s Pastries
By Sara Hohn

I visited Mansoura's to try some of their treats - some familiar, and others less so. I started with a bag of homemade ka'ak, a ring-shaped breadstick that’s common throughout the Middle East. (The word “"kahk" means bracelet in Arabic). These handmade crispy snacks come in large (about 2 inches) and small (like tortellini) sizes, with the adorable small ones being more expensive because they are quite time consuming to make. There are many versions of ka'ak, both sweet and savory. The savory recipe features various combinations of anise seeds, caraway, fennel or cumin. A Moroccan version features allspice and chili powder. The Lebanese Christian version of ka'ak is a sweet Easter cookie that includes cinnamon. Mansoura's ka'ak, like glistening pretzel-crackers sprinkled with sesame seeds, remind me of the Italian snack "tarallini," round crunchy bread sticks seasoned with salt, pepper or anise. Tarallini are made with olive oil, rather than butter or margarine in the ka'ak. But like tarallini, ka'ak are wonderful served with wine or cocktails.

From Mansoura's many beautiful cookies, pastries and confections I picked out a few sweets. I tried their tube-shaped almond baklava - a first for me, as I've only ever had walnut and pistachio versions. The texture of the phyllo and the sweet syrup were wonderful. I think pistachio nuts make for the best baklava, but it was still a wonderfully sticky and satisfying pastry.

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