Word of the day: صحتين (saHtain), literally translates to “two healths.” Used in the same way as “bon appetit.”
George Bernard Shaw said it best: “There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”
One of the greatest pleasures in life, and a significant part of any travel experience, is the food. Food and culture are inextricably entangled; as Jean Comaroff proclaimed, “culture is constructed through consumption.” Food defines identity and brings people and cultures together.
In the past month, my free time has been spent happily exploring Amman’s vast culinary offerings. Below, I’ve showcased some of the foods typically found in Jordanian cuisine.
As a primarily Muslim country, many dining traditions are influenced by Islam. For example, it is generally expected to eat and drink with your right hand only. You do not tend to see locals crossing their legs, for it is considered bad manners to show the bottom of your foot to another person.
The following foods are found throughout the Middle East region, which may vary with respect to the ingredients and techniques of preparation.
Community style eating is common in the region, and you may find any combination of the following dishes served at breakfast and before the main course:
Fuul – Crushed fava beans served with a variety of toppings such as lemon juice, olive oil and chopped chilis.
Hummus – A spread made from mashed chickpeas blended with tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and other seasonings.
Falafel – Deep-fried balls made from mashed chickpeas and served on pita bread with vegetables like tomatoes and onions.
Halloumi – Semi-soft, white cheese with a salty flavor, halloumi originated in Cyprus. Can be fried or grilled.
Shraak- A very thin, whole wheat bread, best enjoyed while it is still hot! My favorite Jordanian bread.
Zeytun– Literally translates to “olive.”
Labneh– A tangy, rich “cheese” made by straining most of the liquid out of yogurt, it can be found in both sweet and savory dishes. For a simple yet delicious breakfast, I like to add olive oil and za’atar (a spice mixture typically made of thyme, sumac, sesame seeds and oregano) to labneh, which I proceed to use as a dip for khubz (flatbread).
Mansaf – Considered to be Jordan’s national dish, it is made of lamb seasoned with herbs, cooked in jameed (dried yogurt), and traditionally served on a large platter covered with a layer of flatbread and topped with large portions of rice, pine nuts and almonds. Mansaf is especially eaten during special occasions such as weddings, major holidays, Independence Day, etc.
Shawarma – Always delicious, cheap and dependable, shawarma consists of seasoned meat (lamb or chicken) wrapped in thin bread and may be topped with a sauce or vegetables. It can be ordered as a platter or sandwich.
Knafeh – A mix of sweet and salty, this sticky pastry drenched in orange blossom syrup is made of gooey, sweet cheese with baked bits of semolina on top.