Foods of Jordan: A Beginner’s Guide

If you’re searching for a new culinary experience, Jordan could have what you are looking for.

Jordan is well known in the Middle East for its stability and tolerance. This has led to Jordanian cuisine becoming quite elaborate, with influences from Middle Eastern neighbours and Western immigrants alike.

Tahini, thyme, sage and mint are essential ingredients for any aspiring Jordanian cook.

Jordanians are well known for hospitality; according to their tourist board, “a Jordanian invitation means that you are expected to bring nothing and eat everything.”

It’s no surprise then that meal times in Jordan are all about socialising. The national dish Mansaf illustrates this perfectly. Mansaf is served as a communal dish, which guests are invited to dig into with tasty local flatbread shrak.

Mansaf is made by slow cooking Lamb in a broth made with jameed, fermented and dried yoghurt, before mixing with rice. Almonds are added as a garnish, and more sauce is poured over the top. It is served during big occasions; both happy and sad, and is often cooked as a peace offering.
Mezze (Middle Eastern tapas) dominate mealtimes in Jordan. When it is served as a starter, you might wonder why bother with a main.  You may find dishes you are familiar with, such as hummus, but also new flavours to tickle your tastebuds. Makdous (stuffed pickled eggplant), ful maddamis (crushed pink beans), and kibbeh (meat croquettes) are just some examples.

Jordanian main-courses are well renowned for their delicious flavour combinations.  Baked chicken, tomato and potato stew suniyat dijaj has a unique aromatic flavour given by the addition of cinnamon, allspice, cardamom, and nutmeg. 

Kofta with tahini sauce is rich and decadent. Meatballs made with ground lamb, garlic and parsly are coated in a tahini and lemon juice sauce. Thinly sliced potatoes are placed on top, and the dish is cooked until creamy and thick. Often this is garnished with pine nuts.

While it is possible to buy wine in Jordan, food and drink blogger Regular Wino warns of the quality saying "always have a backup, like some fruit juice or water just in case".

If you’re considering a visit to Jordan there are restaurants within the hotels in Amman (the capital city), but venturing into the city itself is your best bet for traditional cuisine.

For a unique experience of Jordan’s food look out for a Bedouin ‘zarb’; meat and vegetables barbequed in a large pit in the ground. On-street shwarma stands are also worth a visit; I have a friend from Jordan who has tried and failed to find anything to that standard in Europe.

A travel and food blogger, James spends his time scouring the planet looking for new and exciting foods to try.

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