Eating gluten free in Jordan
One of the things that I immediately asked myself before leaving for Jordan was how many chances I would have to eat gluten-free in the country and, above all, how many possibilities there are to communicate quickly and effectively this need when you’re there. I discovered early on that the phrase “gluten-free” does not get along with Jordan and this happens not because there are no gluten free dishes but because having to specify they’re GF is not covered.
As always happens to me when I travel, I don’t deprive myself of the pleasure of tasting different flavors; then I pay the consequences and I need to run for cover but when I can I always taste different things. I am not telling you to do this unless you are like me but definitely in a place like Jordan, which is definitely safe for many other aspects, the issue of gluten-free food must be well planned and you have to take into account that you may have difficulties.
Do not expect the famous “gluten free options” sign or different menu for celiac people and do not even expect the famous gluten free sign we are used to find elsewhere (at least in Europe): after all, if you go to Jordan and similar countries you soon need to realize that there are limits and decide what and how to eat according to how your stomach will react. In my case, although my stomach reacts badly, I don’t deprive myself of the pleasure of tasting: you treat your body in the same way you would like him to treat you!
On the sidelines of all the words, here a few useful information for those who go to Jordan and have to deal with the food without gluten.
Usually the average tourists stay in luxury hotels or resorts and here the problem of gluten arises only partially. If the corner with the bread is usually the triumph of gluten and flour, it is also true that often are also corners with gluten free baked goods that, even if they are not comparable to normal ones, they are not so bad after all. When I travel I always have breakfast with eggs and meat and in Jordan I’ve accompanied it with crackers or bread without gluten; fruits is always available and the choices are definitely more than one even for those who do not eat gluten. In the Dead Sea I also found the porridge without gluten, a dream for me! If you do not find the proper gluten free corner do not be afraid to ask: in most of the hotels, although often English is poor, making clear you are looking for specific products it is not difficult and the results may surprise you! In Amman, just to say, I was served with a tray full of gluten-free baked products after having walking around and around alone like a crazy before deciding to ask!
Lunch and dinner
The typical Jordanian dishes, that’s incredible, are mostly naturally gluten-free. Rice with meat, but also the hummus, the tabbouleh, the kebab, the zaarb and several starters are suitable for those who do not eat gluten BUT the famous arabic bread is not gluten free so if you want to accompany your meals with bread you have to organize your own or indulge in the proper one without thinking to much to the consequences. The felafel are naturally gluten-free but all depends by the breading that is used to fry: in the oldest restaurant in Amman, Hashem, they were breaded and fried in chickpea flour!
A sore point when you travel but in Jordan cakes and sweet things are definitely a sweet note. In addition to a series of cakes that are made with coconut flour and almonds and are naturally gluten-free, just go to the market and ask for on dates, sweet chickpeas and dried fruit to satisfy your needs. If you accompany these dried fruit with an Arabic coffee or a tea flavored with mint or cardamom the world will smile and you will not need the cookie comforting anymore.
Prerequisite: the Jordans do not drink or, to be more honest, they drink a little to respect their religion. The tourists drink and they pay a lot for drinking. Do not look for gluten-free beers but ask for wine or classic cocktails.
To the supermarket and shops around
You can contact Juthour for information on gluten-free products and shops where to find them in Amman. I had no experience but I was told to go, in Amman, to the Cozmo supermarket, the Beat tha Wheat pastry near Macca Street, the Boutique Bakery in Arward Street and the Al Sufara Bakery in Swefieyeh area.
How do you say “gluten-free” in Arabic?
If you want to feel more safe when asking for gluten free food, you can download the following card, translated into Arabic, containing the information to be given to restaurants or hotels when you have to report your need to eat gluten-free. Not that this will preserve and then advise you to look around and see for themselves but it is definitely an additional tool to carry around.
Travelling for those who eat gluten-free can be difficult and heavy. In some countries, you don’t even feel the difference but in others there is no culture of gluten allergy or intolerance. It’s just that different cultures approach things in different ways. A trip to the Middle East and to Jordan must definitely be planned carefully before leaving if you do not take gluten otherwise your trip will turn into a nightmare, an experience from which you will return home only partially satisfied. A cuisine like the Jordanian one, made of raw and prime elements (chickpeas or lamb, just to say) can only be a type of cuisine for those who do not eat gluten: you just need to be aware that the contaminations are possible and sometimes giving and receiving explanations is even hard than sit around a table and eat!