Jordanian cuisine

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A large plate of Jordanian mezze in Petra, Jordan.

Jordanian cuisine is a traditional style of food preparation originating from Jordan that has developed from centuries of social and political change with roots starting in Paleolithic period (c. 90,000 BC).

There is wide variety in Jordanian cuisine ranging from baking, sautéeing and grilling to stuffing of vegetables (grape leaves, eggplants, etc.), meat, and poultry. Also common in Jordanian cuisine is roasting, and/or preparing foods with special sauces.

As one of the largest producers of olives in the world,[1] olive oil is the main cooking oil in Jordan. Herbs, garlic, spices, onion, tomato sauce and lemon are typical flavours found in Jordan. Jordanian food can vary from extremely hot and spicy to mild.

The most common and popular appetiser is hummus, which is a puree of chick peas blended with tahini, lemon, and garlic. Ful Medames is another well-known appetiser. A workers meal, today it has made its way to the tables of the upper class. A successful mezze must of course have koubba maqliya, labaneh, baba ghanoush, tabbouleh, olives and pickles.

The most distinctive Jordanian dish is mansaf, the national dish of Jordan,[2][3] a symbol in Jordanian culture for generosity.

Although simple fresh fruit is often served towards the end of a Jordanian meal, there is also dessert, such as baklava, hareeseh, knafeh, halva and qatayef a dish made specially for Ramadan.

In Jordanian cuisine, drinking coffee and tea flavored with na'na or meramiyyeh is almost a ritual.

Food culture and traditions[edit]

Within Jordan, mealtimes are not merely a biological function, but also a time of celebration. Food is a very important aspect of Jordanian culture. In villages, meals are a community event with immediate and extended family present. In addition, food is commonly used by Jordanians to express their hospitality and generosity. Jordanians by nature are very hospitable people and, often, food is presented within minutes of a guest arriving at a local house.

Jordanians serve family, friends, and guests with great pride in their homes; no matter how modest their means. A 'Jordanian invitation' means that you are expected to bring nothing and eat everything. And rich Jordanian food coupled with the famous Jordanian hospitality creates an atmosphere of festivities each time a meal is served.

Most of the celebrations in Jordan are exceptionally diverse in nature and quite festive at the same time. Each celebration is marked with dishes from Jordanian cuisine spread out and served to the guests. There are many traditional small gatherings in Jordan too; even in those gatherings a lot of meals are served. Customs such as weddings, birth of a child, funerals, birthdays and specific religious and national ceremonies such as Ramadan and Jordan's independence day all call for splendid food to be served to guests.

Jordanian food[edit]

Main dishes[edit]

  • Mansaf: The national dish of Jordan and the most distinctive Jordanian dish. Mansaf is a traditional Jordanian dish made of lamb cooked in a sauce of fermented dried yogurt called Jameed and served with rice or bulgur.
  • Saniyat Dajaj: Chicken baked with potatoes, tomatoes, and onions with an aromatic blend of spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, pepper, allspice and cardamom.
  • Maqluba: A casserole made of layers of rice, vegetables and meat. After cooking, the pot is flipped upside-down onto the plate when served, hence the name maqluba which translates literally as "upside-down".
  • Kofta b'tahini: Spiced, ground meat baked in a sea of tahini, topped with thinly sliced potatoes and pine nuts and served with rice.
  • Kofta b'bandoora: Spiced, ground meat baked in tomato sauce and served with rice.
  • Stuffed Baby Lamb: Stuffed Baby Lamb is a popular dish in Jordan, which people enjoy as a big and heavy meal. It consists of roasted lamb, stuffed with rice, chopped onions, nuts and raisins.
  • Hash w Nash: Also known as Mashawi. A mixed grill of barbecued meats such as Kebab and Shish taouk.
  • Musaqa‘h (مسقعة)"': Various Levantine variations of the Mediterranean dish [Moussaka] are cooked in Jordan.
  • Athan Al-Shayeb: Meaning 'the ears of the old gray-haired man'. Is a pasta or jiaozi dish that has been described as a kind of local variation on ravioli. After being stuffed with ground beef and spices, thin wheat dough parcels are cooked in Jameed and served hot in this sauce. Another name for this dish is Shishbarak.
  • Zarb: Bedouin barbecue. Meat and vegetables cooked in a large underground pit.
  • Galayet Bandora: Tomatoes sauteed and stewed with garlic, olive oil, salt, and topped with pine nuts, it can be served by rice but most Jordanians prefer it with bread.
  • Burghul Ahmar: Bulgur cooked in tomato sauce and served with poultry.
  • Burghul Bzeit: Bulgur cooked in olive oil and served with poultry.
  • Freekeh: Served with poultry or meat. Meat is fried in oil and braised with water, salt, and cinnamon bark. Then dried coriander is stirred in with freekeh and is cooked.
  • Fasoulya Khadra: Green beans cooked in tomato sauce and served with rice.
  • Fasoulya Beyda: White beans cooked in tomato sauce and served with rice.
  • Kousa Mahshi: Rice and minced meat stuffed in zucchinis. Usually served with chicken and Wara' Aynab (also called Dawali).
  • Kousa Makhshi: Minced meat stuffed in zucchinis cooked in Jameed.
  • Wara' Aynab/Dawali (Dolma): Grape leaves filled with herbed, minced vegetables, meat and rice cooked with olive oil. Sometimes called Dawali.
  • Malfuf: Rice and minced meat rolled in cabbage leaves.
  • Mujaddara: Lentil and rice casserole, garnished with roasted onions.
  • Bamya: Okra cooked with tomato sauce and onions, served with rice and lamb.
  • Maftul: Large couscous like balls, garbanzo beans and chicken pieces cooked in chicken broth.
  • Fatteh: Stack of khubz bread, topped by strained yogurt, steamed chickpeas and olive oil that are crushed and mixed together.
  • Mnazale: Fried Eggplant, meat, and sliced tomatoes cooked in the oven.

Mezze[edit]

Hummus, falafel, salad, pickles and khubz (pita). A typical Jordanian breakfast, Ajloun, 2009.

By far the most dominant style of eating in Jordan, mezze is the small plate, salad, appetizer, community style eating, aided by dipping, dunking and otherwise scooping with bread. Mezze plates are typically rolled out before larger main dishes.[4]

In a typical Jordanian mezze, you might find any combination of the following dishes:

  • Hummus: Chick peas boiled and blended to perfect smoothness with tahini paste, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and perhaps topped with a little parsley.
  • Falafel: Balls of fried chickpea flour and Middle Eastern spice. dipped in every mezze specially the hummus. The Jordanian falafel balls tend to come in smaller sizes.
  • Foul maddamis: Crushed fava beans served with a variety of toppings such as olive oil, lemon juice, parsley, chili pepper, sumac and more.
  • Manaqish: Flatbread dough usually topped with olive oil and za’atar blend. Other varieties may include cheese or ground meat and in this case it's called Sfiha.
  • Wara' Aynab (Dolma): Grape leaves filled with herbed, minced vegetables, meat and rice.
  • Kubbeh: Herbed, minced meat covered in a crust of bulgur (crushed wheat), then fried. Shaped like an American football.
  • Kubbeh Nayyeh: A minced meat and bulgur mixture similar to ordinary kubbeh, but the meat is served raw.
  • Kubbeh blabaniyyeh: A minced meat and bulgur mixture similar to ordinary kubbeh, but boiled in Jordanian Jameed.
  • Labaneh Jarashyyeh: Literally 'labaneh from Jerash. Creamy yogurt, so thick it can be spread on flat bread to make a sandwich.
  • Moutabal: Roasted, pureed potato or eggplant with garlic.
  • Bagdonsyyeh: Parsley blended with tahini and lemon juice, usually served with sea food.
  • Khobbeizeh: Little mallow cooked with olive oil.
  • Makdous: Stuffed pickled eggplant, said to increase appetite.
  • J’ibna bedhah (Haloumi): Semi-soft white cheese. Not quite as salty, crumbly and dry as feta cheese, but similar.
  • Sambusak: Fried dough balls stuffed with meat, pine nuts and onions.
  • Za’atar: a mixture of thyme and sesame seeds. Oregano, sage, or sumac can also be mixed in.
  • Zaitun: Literally olive.
  • Olive oil: Olive oil is one of the cornerstones of Jordanian food. For breakfast, Jordanians dip flatbread into the olive oil, then into the za’atar.
  • Pickled vegetables: Jordanians enjoy pickled anything – carrots, radishes, cucumbers, cauliflower, and whatever other pickle-worthy vegetables might be around. Just about every mezze features a plate of these to add some tang and tart to the meal.

Salads[edit]

Tabbouleh
  • Tabouleh: A salad of finely chopped parsley and mint turned with bulgur, tomatoes, onion and seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice.
  • Rocket salad: Rucola (arugula, rocket) leaves in Jordan are pretty large, tossed with olive oil and lemon.
  • Fattoush: Chopped vegetable salad (e.g., tomatoes, cucumbers, radish, etc.) tossed with pieces of dry or fried flatbread and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and sumac.
  • Arabic salad: Salad made of tomato, cucumber, onion, mint, olive oils and lemon juices.
  • Babba ghanoush: Roasted eggplant, cut into pieces and tossed with tomatoes and onions.
  • Olive salad: cut with carrots, green pepper, chili, and olive oil.

Soups[edit]

In Jordan, meals are usually started with soups. Jordanian soups are usually named after their main ingredient such as:

  • Freekeh soup (Shurabat al-farik): Served hot. Is a soup with Freekeh (green wheat), chicken or meat broth and several varieties of spices.
  • Adas soup (Surabat al-adas "Lentil Soup"): Served hot. Smashed brown, red or green lentils with chicken or meat broth and several varieties of spices. Other ingredients may include vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, celery, parsley, and onion.

Sandwiches[edit]

  • Ara’yes: A word literally meaning bride, ara’yes are spice mincemeat-filled oven-baked flatbread sandwiches.
  • Schwarma: Herbed and spiced chicken or meat on a spindle chopped into small pieces and wrapped in flat bread and served with vegetables, tahini and hot sauce.
  • Falafel: Fresh bread filled or wrapped with falafel, hummus, tomato and pickles.
  • Mo'ajanat: Pies filled with cheese, spinach, za'atar or beef.
  • Managish: Taboon bread topped with za'atar and olive oil.
  • Sambusak: Fried dough balls stuffed with cheese or meat with pine nuts and onions
  • Sfiha: Flat bread topped with beef and red peppers.

Bread[edit]

  • Khubz (Pita): Literally, “ordinary” bread. Bread with pockets.
  • Shrak: Is a traditional Bedouin bread that is popular in Jordan and the region as a whole. The bread is thrown to great thinness before being tossed onto a hot iron griddle called Saj that’s shaped like an inverted wok. Also known as markook. [5]
  • Karadeesh: Is a traditional Jordanian bread made from corn.
  • Taboon: Is a traditional Jordanian flatbread wrap. It is traditionally baked in a taboon oven and eaten with different fillings.
  • Abud: A dense, unleavened traditional Jordanian Bedouin bread baked directly in a wood fire by burying in ash and covering with hot embers.
  • Ka'ak: Is a traditional Jordanian bread made mostly in a large leaf or ring-shape and is covered with sesame seeds.

Beverages[edit]

  • Shaneeneh: Is a special refreshing Jordanian beverage, consists of salty-sour aged goat milk yogurt. Served cold.
  • Arabic coffee (Gahwa Sada): is typically the domain of the Bedouins and consists of ground fire-roasted beans and cardamom drawn thin and served in espresso-sized servings.
  • Turkish-style coffee: It is significantly stronger than its Arabic brother. Water is heated in a long-handled metal cup and the grounds (and any sugar) are mixed in as the combination is brewed over a gas flame to bubbling.
  • Lime-mint juice: Consists of Lemon and mint.
  • Qamar Eddine: Apricot juice. Usually served in Ramadan.
  • Tamar Hindi: Tamarind juice.
  • Sahlab: boiled milk with starch, covered with smashed coconut and cinnamon.
  • Tea: Flavored with na'na or meramiyyeh.
  • Ereq Soos: Known as Sus.

References[edit]