Thanks to Jordan’s culture, history and central geographical location, it’s cuisine is vast and varied. In its wide repertoire of dishes you’ll discover influences of North Africa, the Middle East and even the Mediterranean. When you sit down for a meal in Jordan you are bound to see some familiar names on the menu. This is because many of its popular dishes are common favourites across the Middle East. However Jordan does have a few of its own specialities and unique twists on recipes borrowed from its neighbours. To help you find your way around its diverse palate we’ve put together this handy foodie’s guide to Jordan.
When you sit down for a meal in Jordan chances are your first course will be an impressive spread of dips and salads accompanied by freshly baked pita. You’ll recognise some of the Middle Eastern favourites such as hummus, falafel, tabouleh and fatoush. But there’ll also be some Jordanian specialities too. This might include mouttabal, a dip made with smoky roasted aubergine, tahini and yoghurt. Often confused with baba ganoush, mouttabal has creamier texture and is more filling. While it can be tempting to fill up on mezze, be sure to leave room for what’s to come.
Many of Jordan’s customs are still deeply embedded in traditional Bedouin culture. So it’s not surprising that mansaf – the national dish, is in some way rooted in their generations-old way of life. While some of the ingredients may have changed over the years, the principle remains the same. Today it is a dish made up of chunks of marinated lamb cooked in sour fermented yoghurt, then served on rice and topped with a special yoghurt sauce. Typically everyone eats from one communal dish by forming balls of meat and rice in their right hand before popping it into their mouths.
Translated from Arabic as ‘upside down’, the name for this dish could not be more apt. Rice spiced with cinnamon and cardamom is arranged with potatoes and rice in an earthen pot. When the food is cooked the pot is inverted on a plate before being lifted to reveal a layered masterpiece – usually with the whole family in attendance! While maqluba is today enjoyed throughout most of the Middle East, the original recipe is from Palestine.
If you overnight in Wadi Rum on your trip to Jordan then you’ll most likely try this traditional Bedouin dish. For centuries Bedouins have cooked food underground and the custom continues today, just with a few modern improvements. A large hole is dug in the sand and lined with a metal casing, then a wood fire is lit in the base in the hole. Once the wood has turned to hot embers, the hole is filled with chopped lamb or chicken and vegetables. Covered and left to cook for several hours, the result is a delicious slow-cooked smoky meal.
While this popular Middle Eastern dish is simple in its ingredients and preparation, it is a delicious addition to meal time. Shorbat Adas is lentil soup seasoned with chicken broth, onion, cumin and olive oil. When served it is often garnished with parsley and croutons, with warm pita bread on the side. Hearty, delicious and nutritious it is no wonder why it is a staple of any Jordanian kitchen.
Nicknamed Bedouin pizza, these oven-baked slices of flat bread stuffed with spiced minced meat are Jordanian street food at its most moreish. Crunchy, greasy and served slathered with galayat bandura – a tasty and spicy tomato sauce, they are sure to keep you coming back for more.
Just when you think you can eat no more prepare for a platter of sweet treats to be placed down in front of you. For this is how all meals end in Jordan. Perhaps the most famous of the Middle Eastern desserts is baklava – sticky, crisp and doused in sweet syrup. Another favourite is kanafeh, a pastry stuffed with cheese, cream and sprinkled with rose water syrup. There’s also warbat bil ishta, a sweet pastry filled with custard or clotted cream. And you don’t need a meal as an excuse to treat yourself to one of these, there are countless shops in every Jordanian city selling row upon row of these goodies.
To wash it all down
In every restaurant, food cart or market stall in Jordan you are guaranteed to find two drinks – coffee and mint tea. Coffee in Jordan is much more than just a drink, it plays an important part in the country’s hospitality culture. There is Turkish coffee which is thick, spiced with cardamom and often sweetened with plenty of sugar. Arabic coffee on the other hand is lighter, often spiced with cardamom, saffron, cloves and cinnamon, and served in small portions. Mint tea is served usually after a meal, and is typically just black tea with a few fresh mint leaves. If you prefer a cold one, then order a lemon and mint juice – a delicious blended drink with the option to add sugar for sweetness.
Experience the many flavours of Jordan for yourself on our range of group tours, or plan your own tailor-made holiday. You can even learn how to prepare some of Jordan’s most popular dishes for yourself with a fun and interactive cooking lesson at Petra Kitchen. Contact us for more details.