Eating in Jordan: food to try when travelling
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Food is part of a trip and it allows to better understand a place and its people. Those who love the flavors of Middle Eastern cuisine will certainly fall in love with the Jordan food. A very basic cuisine with dishes that, more or less, are always similar and use the same ingredients: chicken, rice, lamb and mutton. The Jordan food has a clear Bedouin origin and even today (which is definitely very interesting) most of the dishes are prepared using traditional cooking methods from the use of old cookware to the use of particular cooking ways no longer used elsewhere, for example in the sand.
The food is also the best way to share moments and not surprisingly the starters in Jordan (as well as in all Arab countries) are particularly important together with the fact of eating with your hands that symbolizes the great value that the food and being around a table has for this people. In general. for Jordanians eating is a social affair so meals can last for hours!
What do you really have to try if you are in Jordan and, like myself, want to taste food to better understand the country and its people? I have selected a few dishes you really have to taste if you’re in Jordan.
The mansaf is considered the Jordanian national dish and it’s made of rice, lamb and yogurt (the jameed, slightly firmer than the normal one) and its origins are clearly Bedouin. Among other things the Mansaf is also considered the convivial dish par excellence and the sign of hospitality. The peculiarity of the mensaf is that it’s cooked on a hot plate where pine nuts, chopped parsley and Baharat spices (a mix of allspice, black pepper, clove, cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, caraway, nutmeg, paprika and in some cases rose petals) are laid on. It’s also the typical dish of the Bedouins of the desert and it’s served if you sleep in the tent camps or if you stop for lunch. The Bedouins eat mansaf with their right hand, preferrably standing.
Rice, again, but with a different method of cooking because the rice, the meat and the grilled vegetables are cooked in a sort of tajine pot and reversed when ready. Once overthrown it’s seasoned it with almonds and yogurt.
The hummus is inevitable accompanied by the Arabic bread. Unmissable and definitely a must. Here my recipe (in Italian, use a translator to translate it)
Chickpea meatballs, chopped parsley, garlic, cilantro and onion all fried in oil. Do not imagine a deep fried but rather think of a very dry fry which is accompanied by bread and/or dipped in one of the many sauces you’ll find on the table.
Mutabbal (o Baba Ganush)
A cream of baked eggplant mixed with the tahini sauce (made from sesame) and enriched with lemon, garlic and olive oil.
Chicken, rice and pine nuts are cooked above and below a layer of Arabic bread. The result is a flavored bread that is used to collect the rice and become the “spoon” of the situation.
Imagine a classical yogurt that is sieved using a cotton cloth and gets the consistency of a cream cheese. It is accompanied by the bread after having been flavored with olive oil.
Zarb (o Zaarb)
Everything you need to know about the Zarb is in the following video:
This famous Jordanian dessert is made of layers of phyllo dough filled with a mix of fresh cheese and cooked in a mix of sweet butter.
Semolina, honey, yogurt and almonds give life to one of the best sweets ever. Sweet but, believe me, bearable, the basbousa is one of the most important street food in Jordan and it can be eaten with bare hands and without napkins.
Do not forget to taste the spices and the products you can find at the markets but also the Arabic bread (also stuffed with tomatoes, onions and meat!) and let yourself groped by the local bakeries which, I assure you, are really amazing! And if you are in need of a cold drink order a lemon and mint beverage!
[I had the pleasure to taste all these dishes thanks to VisitJordan. Please refer to them of you want to organize your trip to Jordan. More to come on these pages!]