Feasting Like Royalty in JordanSrinivasa Shenoy
A disclaimer before I begin – I am no food connoisseur. I lack the understanding of the complex art and science of cookery and its many myriad ingredients! However, like many, I enjoy my food and I would rarely refuse the adventure of trying out different cuisines. Food, for me, is an essential ingredient of travel. As they say, food allows us to understand the culture of the local people deeper, and of course, many a time, food makes a great starter for memorable conversations and friendships.
Every travel adventure of mine starts with the hope that I get to sample all the foods (and drinks!) home to the place I’m about to visit (I thoroughly list them out beforehand as a part of the pleasurable exercise of travel preparation & research). But alas, it usually turns out that there isn’t always enough time and the opportunity available, to do so and I’ve to make do with the best of what the situation presents me with.
The following are some of the dishes and drinks of Jordan we tasted on our memorable journey through this country of lovely people – Jordan! This also includes some information on the restaurants there, which welcomed us, hungry travellers!
This list is by no means exhaustive and I suppose it would have taken a couple more weeks of travel to complete the food checklist that I’d prepared in advance.
Falafel, Pita Bread, and Hummus (Ayola Café, Madaba)
They are the usuals here. This combination can never go wrong and you get it all around Jordan. This dish is the best thing to fall back upon if you happen to get tired of tasting all the exotic dishes here. (Notice the Limonana in the background – Jordanian Lemonade. It is strong, but well earned after a hot day!)
Moutabel (Movenpick, Dead Sea): Baba Ghanoush with Yogurt and Roasted Eggplant dip.
Spicy lamb sausages sautéed with lemon garlic sauce (Haret Jdoudna, Madaba)
Galayat Bandora (Mt Nebo Restaurant)
Sautéed tomatoes stewed with garlic, olive oil, pepper, and salt.
Muffaraket Batata with Mushrooms (Haret Jdoudna, Madaba) –
Potato Mufarakeh is a simple dish of potatoes, onions, and minced meat.
Fattoush (Arabic Salad) (Haret Jdoudna, Madaba)
Levantine bread salad is made of toasted or fried pieces of pita bread combined with mixed greens and other vegetables such as radishes and tomatoes.
Shish Tawook (Chicken) (Haret Jdoudna, Madaba)
This is Jordan’s traditional marinated Chicken Sheesh Kebab
Tabbouleh (Movenpick, Dead Sea)
Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern vegetarian dish traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur, and onion, seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice, and salt.
This dish consists of mashed fava beans and olive oil (Movenpick, Dead Sea) sprinkled with cumin, chilli powder, pepper, and salt.
Araiss Maria (Dead Sea Panorama Restaurant): This dish is essentially two layers of pita bread, filled in the middle with minced lamb, onions, parsley, and with a fragrant allspice seasoning. It is then brushed with olive oil and grilled over hot charcoal.
Sfiha – Lebanese Manaeesh (Ocean Restaurant, Dead Sea)
A pizza-like dish originating from the Levant, specifically Baalbek, Lebanon.
Bedouin Veg Dinner (with Shrak – Rumali style bread)
Sampled at the Feynan Eco Lodge, Dana Biosphere Reserve.
Mansaf – The National dish of Jordan! (Sandstone Restaurant, Petra)
This is made of Rice, Lamb (or chicken) & Jameed. The Jameed, which is a hard dried out and fermented goat’s milk yogurt, is re-hydrated into a gravy and poured over the rice and lamb.
Shawarma (Sandstone Restaurant, Petra)
Lamb Sajeyeh (Jordanian Wok) (Umm Quais Rest house)
Manakish (Movenpick, Dead Sea)
A round of dough, topped with za’atar (a herb thyme spice mixture), and olive oil.
Musakan (Mt. Nebo Restaurant)
Musakan is made of slices of bread, chicken, heaps of onions, fragrant spices like allspice and cinnamon, and lots of olive oil. The ingredients are stewed together until the onion, chicken, olives, and bread fall apart tender and all the spices have blended and harmonized.
We did indulge heavily on sweets, in this delightful trip! The highlight was Amman, particularly Habibah Sweets, which specializes in Kanafeh and Cheese Bakhalava. It is a small ‘hole in the wall’ shop where you will have to patiently wait in a queue to have a chance at buying the savories!
A notable mention here is the Al-Quds Jerusalem Restaurant in down-town Amman. They were amused at our request to allow us to taste a little of every sweet dish on their display and also kind enough, to comply!
Kanafeh (Habibah Restaurant):
Cheese is the most noticeable of the ingredients in this. It is paired with either noodles or semolina, drenched in a sticky rose scented syrup, and topped with a pinch of ground pistachios
Kullaj – Cheese Bakhlava (Habibah Foods, Amman)
This is a sweet made with semolina, coconut, cream, sugar, yogurt, and almonds, all baked until golden brown.
Assorted Sweets at Al Quds Restaurant, Amman down-town
Mohalabeh (with Fig) (Haret Jdoudna, Madaba)
Though Shaii (tea) is the national obsession, a tourist will not find the variety of local alcohol brands wanting. Right from wine from the holy land to Arak to excellent locally brewed beer, you will find them all here! This should come as a pleasant surprise for those who assume that a predominantly Muslim country would prove to be disappointing, in this category.
The national drink of Jordan! (flavored with Sage)
This is Jordanian anise-flavored distilled liquor. It is a colorless drink out of the bottle but turns milky white when mixed with water. I enjoyed it, but not every day!
This is local Jordanian beer (The Sea of Galilee in the background). This one is an excellent beer, just like what the makers (a family owned micro-brewery in Jordan) say – “Hand-crafted Ales made yours from the fullest natural ingredients, respect, and love for beer”
Local Wine, Petra
How can a discussion on this country’s food not include photos of the colorful marketplaces of Amman! These pictures were shot on a lovely late evening walk.