I was most excited to try Jordanian food as I had no idea what it would be like. I got a lot of flack when I announced that I did not like green pepper, who knew it would be that controversial?
I’m not a picky eater but there are a handful of things I don’t like and even more that I’m not crazy about.
Or so I thought.
I tried some of these things in Jordan and realized I did like them. Well I like them in Jordan.
Jordanian Foods to Try
You’ll find that many of the foods in Jordan are similar to those in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. While we have formal country borders, gastronomy does not.
There are many falafel shops in Toronto and I have tried them many times, really wanting to like them but always feeling lukewarm about the rock hard flavourless balls.
Falafels are typical Jordanian food but here they are light, fluffy deliciousness. I think the brightness of parsley helps the flavour but overall they are a must-try.
This simple dish is one that is often used as a filling for sandwiches, or can be served as a dip as part of a spread of mezze dishes.
The basic ingredient for labanah is yogurt. It is stirred with a little bit of salt to help the yogurt to separate, before it is strained. For this, the mixture is placed over a cheesecloth, so that the fluid can drain away.
After around 12 hours the remaining yogurt will have a texture similar to cream cheese.
When being served as mezze, it will often be drizzled with olive oil and herbs to be served.
Mutabal or Mouttabal
On my formal list of the 5 things I don’t like. I have tried to cook eggplant so many times. I still don’t like baba ganoush but Jordanian mouttabal is an delicious blend of roasted eggplant, yogurt, tahini, garlic and lemon.
Usually served as a dip that has quite a light texture. The key ingredient for this dip is eggplant. This is cooked until the flesh of the eggplant is soft, charred then skinned.
Sawani Dijaj: Jordanian Stewed Chicken Recipe
The flesh of the eggplant is chopped before being mashed together with olive oil, yogurt, tahini and lemon juice.
Mouttabal is often served as a part of a mezze buffet with a range of other options. Or it can simply be served with a flatbread.
And you can bet I will be making it at home.
Although it is not exclusively a Jordanian food, tahini is a food that plays an important part in the food culture of the country.
It is a condiment that is made with sesame seeds. Seeds are soaked in water so that the kernels can be taken. These are then toasted, before being ground into a paste.
Tahini can have quite an oily texture, and especially those that have been prepared organically such as organic tahini may need to be kept refrigerated.
It can be served as a dip, or is also used to make hummus and baba ghanoush.
I have tried lamb before. I tried lamb in New Zealand where it’s supposedly the best. In general I am not crazy about it. The national dish of Jordan is mansaf, and it changed my mind about lamb.
A large flatbread is topped with rice, almonds, pine nuts and lamb. It has been simmered in dried yogurt and then mixed with water to create a creamy sauce. My driver Rami explained that many people need to take naps afterward and I can attest that it true.
While some dishes may claim to have a long history, there is evidence that khubz bread was being eaten in Northern Jordan over 14,000 years ago.
There are also claims that there were six different recipes for khubz included in a cookbook dating from the tenth century.
Today, it is a round flatbread that is traditionally cooked in a clay oven. Because it doesn’t include any fat added to the dough, it can dry quite quickly.
Because of this it is commonly eaten warm from the oven.
The bread can be used to hold foods such as falafel or kebab meat, along with a range of other mezze used as fillings.
A layered dish that has a very distinct appearance when it is on the plate, maqluba has been a part of Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries.
Indeed, it actually appears in one of the region’s first food books that was published in the thirteenth century.
This Jordanian food is made by layering fried vegetables, rice and meat into a dish. This is then cooked in the metal dish, which is turned upside down on to a plate for presentation.
The most common ingredients are cauliflower and eggplant, while chicken and lamb are often used as the meat for the dish. Maqluba is usually served with salad and yogurt.
At its heart, sayadieh is a simple dish of fish and rice. Yet it is a delicious way to enjoy fish while visiting Jordan.
The fish itself is either cod or haddock, and the fillet of this white fish is then cooked with turmeric, black pepper, red chili peppers and nuts in the sauce.
The rice is also cooked separately with spices to give it a red hue. The fish is then placed on top of the rice with a few chopped nuts to garnish, and it is usually served with a tahini sauce.
Also often known as fatayer in some areas of the country, these pastries are ideal for a lunch on the go, or can be purchased as a snack from bakeries.
The pastry is baked while preparing these dishes. So it should be crispy on the outside but quite light and fluffy inside.
The filling for sabanekh can include a cheese filling, while the most common filling is a spinach blend where the spinach is mixed with onions, olive oil and seasoned before being folded into the pastry pocket which is then baked.
These dumplings are an important part of Jordanian food, and make good use of the bulgur wheat that is grown in the region.
The cracked bulgur wheat is combined with fried onions and ground meat in order to make the dumplings. The kibbeh can be made with almost any meat that is available, and this can include lamb, beef and even camel or goat where available.
The Petra Monastery
The ingredients are seasoned and then worked together before being baked, although some variations may also be cooked in a broth to give the dumpling a softer texture.
Fun Fact: You can also find these treats in Mexico. Traditional food in Mexico is influenced by Lebanese immigrants. It has evolved to become a popular Mexican antojito, or snack, called kibis.
Pastries are a key part of Jordanian cuisine, and mo’ajanat are another type of pastry that can be eaten either as a snack or as part of a larger meal.
The pastries are made by cutting triangles of pastry that are then used to create a pocket. They are usually stuffed with either a cheese, meat or Za’atar filling.
In many families, they will usually prepare a batch of these pastries using different fillings. This means that when you do go in to try and take one of these pastries, you won’t always get to know what the filling will be!
Manakish is a type of topped bread that would often be compared with pizza by those explaining the dish to people trying it for the first time.
Here, the bread is usually cooked in the morning, with smaller batches being prepared with different toppings. These can include za’atar spread on the bread, with other topping options including spinach, minced lamb or cheese.
The bread can then be cut into slices to be eaten, or it can also be folded over. Manakish are generally considered to be a breakfast or lunchtime dish in Jordan.
Although it is not a dish as such, Za’atar is an important part of Jordanian food. It is both a type of herb and a blend of dried spices that includes the herb..
While there are different recipes that can be used in preparing Za’atar, the majority of these spice blends will include dried sumac, toasted sesame seeds and salt.
The seasoning can be used to make breads or spread with olive oil on a flatbread. It is also regularly used for seasoning meat dishes.
Chicken is one of the staple meats found in Jordanian cuisine as well as Palestinian.
For this Jordanian food the meat is simply prepared so that it shines. The chicken is roasted with pine nuts and onions, and is seasoned with a blend including sumac and allspice.
This is served on a taboon flatbread, which gives it a similarity to some chicken kebab dishes. Although here the meat isn’t generally chopped before serving, rather it is served whole.
Musakhan is often prepared to celebrate the olive harvest and the fresh oil. Yet in reality is available throughout the year.
Salad is something that is not always associated with Middle Eastern cuisine. But here tabbouleh is common, and is often part of a mezze spread.
For this Jordanian food the base leaf for the salad is actually parsley, which is chopped and combined with bulgur wheat, mint, tomato and onion. This is drizzled with a zesty dressing that is made with olive oil, lemon juice and salt.
Some variations may also add garlic into the mix as well, although this is not necessary in every recipe.
There are also variations of the dish to be found in many other countries as well, as it has been exported successfully across the world.
Cooking Class in Amman
One of the components of many Jordanian food, freekeh is made by toasting green durum wheat.
The toasting gives the grain a smoky flavour. It is gaining popularity around the world as it is high in protein and fibre.
Cracked freekeh can have a softer texture such as oatmeal, while uncracked is firmer and more often used as a base for other savoury dishes.
Freekeh is washed before it is cooked in a broth, and it can then be seasoned before being served. It is often served with roast meat or vegetables, or it can also be cooked with more broth and prepared as a soup.
Lentil soups are found in many different cuisines, and here in Jordan the Adas is just such a soup that is so filling it is usually served as a main meal rather than an appetizer.
The preparation of the soup is actually very simple, as the two main ingredients are the lentils and a diced onion. These are then cooked together in a chicken broth, although those catering for vegetarians can easily switch out the chicken stock for a vegetarian one.
The soup is then served with a pita bread and a wedge or two of lemon, for a healthy and hearty soup.
A popular soup in Jordan, fasoulya is a dish that is made with beans as the main staple ingredient.
There can be varieties that are made with either green beans or white beans. However, the versions made with white beans are the most common.
These beans are cooked in a broth with tomatoes, and other vegetables that will often include carrots, celery and onions. As always, the exact recipe varies in line with the chef’s preferences.
Fasoulya is another dish that is found in many parts of the Middle East.
This is a Jordanian stew that is both very simple but can also become elaborate when a range of different ingredients are added to the blend.
The simple recipe for ful medames is fava beans that have been cooked in a broth with vegetable oil and cumin.
However, this simple stew can be enriched with a range of different ingredients, including garlic, onions, parsley and chili peppers.
It is also commonly prepared in a similar way to hummus where the beans are cooked until they are soft, and also often cooked with tahini.
This isn’t just a regular salad. The ingredients in the salad usually include lettuce, tomato, mint leaves, red onion and cucumber, which are then drizzled with the dressing.
One of the ways to make a salad more exciting is to use a lively dressing that will really help to emphasize the ingredients in the salad.
The dressing here is a combination of lemon juice, olive oil and red wine vinegar, and these sharp ingredients help to give fattoush a zesty citrus flavour.
This dish is particularly popular during Ramadan celebrations.
These sandwiches are often found in street food stalls or kebab shops in Jordan. They look a little similar to quesadillas.
Naturally, the bread used here is a pita bread. Although it is generally not the whole bread but rather two slices of the pitta cut into a quarter circle shape.
These are filled with a mixture of minced lamb, parsley and onions, which are usually seasoned with allspice. Once prepared, they are brushed with olive oil before being grilled on both sides.
This gives the sandwich a crispy texture and the juicy lamb helps to make this an irresistible snack.
I usually only drink water or alcohol. I’m not big on juice or pop, but here in Jordan lemonade is mixed with so much mint it is green and absolutely delicious.
And the mint doesn’t stop there. I resisted drinking any tea here but then Mahmoud told me to try to sage tea with mint, I’m a complete convert and love it.
Maybe I should have a site called Mint is Magic?
A traditional yogurt drink that is particularly popular during the summer months. It is often drank to help people to cool down during the heat.
The preparation of shaneeneh is actually remarkably simple, as it is effectively a blend of natural yogurt that is combined with iced water and a measure of salt.
There are some variations that will also use carbonated water, with a little mint included to add to the flavour as well.
This has been drunk in Jordan and the region for centuries, and is often an accompaniment to meat and rice dishes.
A spirit that is made with anise and grapes, arak is one of the common drinks that is used to accompany mezze dishes in Jordan. In fact, it is known as the milk of lions and popular throughout the Middle East. However, sometimes it is better known as arack or arraki.
The spirit is simple to produce. It is made with grapes and the oil squeezed from aniseeds, which give this spirit a liquorice flavour.
When it is drunk, the arak is generally diluted with water in around two parts water to one part arak. When it is served, the mixture of arak and water is usually poured over ice. Ice is never added last.
If you pour incorrectly it can cause part of the spirit to separate. It will leave an oily layer on the top of the drink.
Also, for the same reason, it is customary to use a clean glass for each drink, rather than topping up a glass with more arak.
Desserts in Jordan
Another dessert in Jordan that is common in many countries in the region., Knafeh is made with a type of pastry that is very thin, often made with semolina.
This dough is layered with generous servings of a sweet syrup, with some layers of clotted cream in between the layers of dough.
The pastry is often covered with either red or orange food colouring to make the mix even more appetizing.
Once cooked, it is often drizzled with more syrup then topped with chopped pistachios to serve.
A Jordanian dessert that originated in Jordan, but is now popular throughout the region.
Warbat does have some similarities with baklava. Here the thin layers of phyllo pastry are interspersed with layers of custard. It can be flavoured with a range of different sweet flavours such as orange blossom or lemon.
It is topped with a drizzle of sweet syrup and often chopped pistachios or other nuts as well. Warbat can actually look quite different.
It depends whether it is produced in larger batches and presented in a large pan, or individually presented treats.
This dessert has been made in the Middle East for over two thousand years. In fact there is a with a reference to the sweet treat in the writings of Cluny the Elder, over a century BC.
Its success depends on the combination of pastry, nuts and honey that has proven to appeal to taste buds over the millennia.
The layers of phyllo pastry are combined with layers of pistachios, walnuts or hazelnuts. The glue that holds it all together is honey. For serving, the baklava may also be drizzled with a rose water or orange flower water syrup.
This is one of the desserts in Jordan that is often found in family meals.
This is a dish similar to a bread and butter pudding. However, instead of bread the chef will use pastry as the bread element of the dish.
This is combined with pistachios, raisins and coconut flakes, before receiving a generous measure of sugar.
The umm’ali is then baked until the dish has a golden crust. Finally it is sprinkled with cinnamon to serve.
What Jordanian food have I missed? Leave a comment below!
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Disclosure: I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Bureau. They did not request that I write a favourable review or decide that I had been wrong about so many foods I thought I didn’t like.