Jordan

Ahlan wa Sahlan and welcome to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan! This small desert nation—located smack in the middle of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Israel, and the Palestinian territories—is a crossroads of culture and politics famous for its willingness to accept refugees from across the war-torn Middle East. During our first globetrot of November, were looking forward to learning more about the country’s history, its people, and its culture.

On Saturday morning, Jess tried her hand at making a traditional Jordanian recipe that was advertised as “the greatest Middle Eastern breakfast of all time.” The dish is manakish, a flatbread topped with tomatoes or cheese, herbs, and spices.

Both types of flatbread were delicious, but I particularly admired how Jess had managed to bake the spice-caked tomatoes just to the point at which they seemed to melt in the mouth. We ate the manakish with big mugs of sweetened black tea with sage.

We soon were learning all about Jordan with Geography Now:

Hungry for lunch, we arrived at our neighborhood House of Hummus shortly after 11:30 AM. The owners appear to be Palestinian rather than Jordanian, but when it comes to food, the two nationalities share much in common. We ordered a couple of entrees and then, after learning that there would be a significant wait, an appetizer of falafel as well:

The host also brought us some pita and hummus, on the house! The crunchy falafel was piping hot while the hummus was cool and smooth. A good combination. After about thirty minutes, our main courses arrived at the table:

Jess had ordered the shakshuka, a special menu item based on the humble kalayet bandora appetizer (sautéed tomatoes) created with the addition of three steamed eggs and a side of pita. I had the hummus bowl with beef, rice, and a freshly chopped Arabic salad. Each was delicious, although we both left the restaurant feeling rather stuffed.

That afternoon, we got the royal “Welcome to Jordan!” in a short video produced by the kingdom’s tourism bureau:

The film, which was co-sponsored by Columbia sportswear, seemed to emphasize the appeal of Jordan for not only outdoor adventurers but also for pilgrims intent on seeing various biblical hotspots. We also watched a short introduction to the magnificent ruins of Petra produced by BBC2.

For dinner, Jess helped me to prepare a spread of mezze (small plates) that included a fresh tabbouleh salad, a hot dish with chickpeas and yoghurt called fattet hummus, and some stuffed warak enab (grape leaves, known as dolmades in Greek). Jess had made a different version of the hummus during our globetrotting detour to Syria several years before.

Our film for the evening was Theeb (2014), a historical drama about a young boy who finds himself caught in the turmoil of World War I while also fighting to survive the perils of the desert. 

The film gave us a glimpse of the nomadic culture common throughout the Arabian desert (including in present-day Jordan) in the later days of the Ottoman empire.

On Sunday morning, after another breakfast of manakish, we joined vlogger Mark Wiens for a virtual food tour of Amman, the capital of Jordan. We were pleased to recognize some of the dishes that we had been making ourselves amidst the delicacies:

The culinary highlight of the weekend came at lunch, when Jess dishes out some of her Jordanian rice pilaf, basmati rice piled high with eggplant and mushrooms, a rich yoghurt sauce, fresh herbs, and toasted sunflower seeds in place of nuts:

The Kingdom of Jordan was certainly good to our stomachs, but we also appreciated learning how Jordan has been a good neighbor in the Middle East. From its acceptance of refugees to its booming medical tourism industry, Jordan has clearly become a positive influence on the region both culturally and politically. Until next time, salam!

–Derek

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Diana says:

    Hi Jess and Derek! Thanks for linking to my Fattet hummus recipe. I hope that one day you will be able to visit my beautiful country Jordan and see it in person. Galayet Bandora is one of our most popular traditional dishes https://www.instagram.com/p/3n8G0dkYxl/, it’s stewed tomatoes basically made vegan but sometimes people add meat as well (you can find the recipe on my blog) and Shakshuka is not Jordanian so people wouldn’t know what shakshuka is in Jordan – I think that Shakshuka is an Arab African recipe. The pilaf is definitely not Jordanian, mushrooms are new to Jordan and are quite expensive. I think that the Pilaf recipe that you linked to is made up by the blogger in an attempt to veganise the traditional Jordan dish Mansaf https://www.instagram.com/p/1AUeJnkY6R/ This is National dish of Jordan (rice, lamb and yogurt sauce, topped with nuts). Manakeesh are the best! https://www.instagram.com/p/BbSJ1dmjJRl/ Usually topped with olive oil and zaatar (dried thyme), or white cheese or both! Another Jordanian/Palestinian dish is stuffed zucchinis or marrows and stuffed vine leaves (in Arabic, koosa mahshi wa warak dawali), the stuffing is usually rice, spice and minced meat but this could be made without the meat (fasting Arab Christians do this all the time).
    I love the concept of your blog, I believe that one can learn so much about a nation from their food!
    Diana

    1. Jess says:

      Hi, Diana! Thanks for your comments. I’m a vegetarian, so the meals Derek and I make at home are vegetarian, though we know that runs the risk of making dishes less authentic. Someone else had commented on the pilaf recipe link to say that it wasn’t really Jordanian either. When we go out to eat, I also realize that I might not also be eating the most authentic dishes, especially if I’m also trying to eat a fairly nutritionally balanced meal (in this case, I opted for shakshuka over the plain galayet bandora, to get protein from the eggs). Still, it’s good to know when we didn’t get things quite right and we are so appreciative of the many food bloggers sharing recipes from their cultures!

  2. Diana says:

    Hi Jess,

    I very rarely eat any kind of meat so I know what you’re talking about! But the good thing about Jordanian/Middle Eastern food is that there are many vegetarian/vegan options to choose from. The Mezza is absolutely amazing as there are so many salads and side dishes that contain no meat. I also really like to veganise Jordanian recipes, like this stewed okra https://littlesunnykitchen.com/bamya/ and these stuffed eggplants https://littlesunnykitchen.com/stuffed-aubergines/ – if you ever get to try any other Jordanian recipes, please let me know what you thought of them.

    All the best,
    Diana

  3. Diana says:

    I was telling my husband about your blog just now, and he says shakshuka is the same as the stewed tomatoes but with eggs and we call it “galayet bandora with baid” in Jordan. It’s just that we don’t use the term Shakshuka I guess 🙂

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