Food is a big part of the Jordanian culture seen in everyday life and celebrations. From street food to fine-dining, Jordanian food is inherently traditional, using authentic cooking methods and recipes passed down from generation to generation. Using local and regional ingredients and a multitude of fresh herbs and spices, tasting Jordanian food is one of the best ways to experience the country. Here are some main dishes in Jordan.
Recognized as the national dish of Jordan, Mansaf is traditional and authentically Jordanian. This dish which is often served on a large platter and is intended to be shared usually consists of cooked lamb which is prepared in a fermented yogurt sauce. The meat is then served over rice and sometimes bulgar with herbs. There are many recipes and small nuances in the ingredients and ratios used, but one thing is certain, a visit to Jordan means eating Mansaf is a must.
A traditional dish found all over Jordan, Maqluba is a dish that is also often shared, and is known for being “upside down”. The pot is prepared with rice, vegetables, and meat which is then cooked together in a pot. Once ready, the pot is then flipped upside down and served on a platter. Maqluba is hearty, filling and delicious, not to mention it looks beautiful to see the upside-down dish prepared.
Kofta are beef patties or almost balls that can be prepared in a variety of ways. The meat is comparable to kebab, which is minced and formed into patties. Kofta can then be cooked in a variety of sauces ranging from tahini to tomato sauce. Each type of kofta is uniquely different and picks up the flavors of the sauce surrounding it during the cooking process.
A dish with multiple origins, seen also in Lebanese cooking, Fasoulya consists of white beats cooked in tomato sauce with rice and with or without meat. It is a simple dish that is warm, hearty and filling. Fasoulya translates to “bean”, so the dish can vary slightly but will always contain the beans.
Mulukhiyah (or Molokhia)
Mulukhiyah refers to the vegetable that grows in the region and many dishes that incorporate this slightly bitter and similar to okra in texture and consistency when cooked. The recipes usually prepare mulukhiyyah with meat, generally chicken or at least the broth from the chicken along with cooked rice infused with lemon, or served with a lemon to bring out the flavors.
With Palestinian roots, this is another chicken dish that is flavorful and bright. The chicken is roasted and then baked together with a variety of spices including sumac and saffron which are regional spices and worth tasting while in Jordan. The dish is also comprised of onions and pine nuts which are toasted or fried and the entire mixture is served over bread which is baked in a clay oven.
Comfort food that is ingrained in the Jordanian culture Rashouf is warm and filling. It is almost stew-like, prepared with lentils, and the yogurt that is used for Mansaf mixed together and cooked with wheat and paired together with sour pickles. The combination is both creamy and hearty and the sour vegetables bring out the flavors even more. This dish is often enjoyed in the winter and intended to be very filling.
Often hot and spicy, this dish is inherently Jordanian and delicious. A modest mixture of tomatoes, hot peppers, onions seasoned with salt and olive oil. In fact, Galayet Bandora is a popular dish seen in Levantine cooking given the ingredients are both regional, easy to access and affordable. This dish is also easily eaten with many other dishes and pairs easily with other main dishes as well as the mezze.Galayet Bandora is best enjoyed with fresh bread or pita and topped with toasted pine nuts and fresh herbs.
Made from the green durum wheat, freekeh is a grain which is used in a variety of Jordanian and Levantine cooking. Like other durum wheat (semolina, couscous), freekeh is versatile, cheap and easy to incorporate into dishes. Oftentimes freekeh is cooked with the stock made from meat – usually lamb or chicken. The meat which is cooked separately or sometimes together is then plated on top of the cooked freekeh. Freekeh can also be incorporated into salads.
A traditionally Bedouin dish, Zarb refers to a meal that is prepared underground for hours. This technique is unique and leads to a very special meal. Meat and vegetables – often lamb or chicken along with carrots and onions are placed together into a hole in the ground which is dedicated for cooking. The underground hole is then filled with hot coals and covered with sand, and blankets are laid over top to trap the heat even more. Hours later, the entire mix of meat and vegetables is taken from the earth and served together. The meat is juicy, tender and flavorful, infused with the essence of the vegetables and the smoke. This technique is utilized in the desert and is deeply connected to the Bedouin way of life. A great way to enjoy it is on a Bedouin Experience in the Wadi Rum Desert.
Seen all over the Middle East, Shwarma refers to the style in which meat is prepared. Shwarma meat can be chicken, lamb, beef or even turkey meat. Meat is marinated in a variety of herbs and spices and then mounted onto a large spit. The meat is then slow cooked while continually rotating in the heat. Like a rotisserie, the meat which is stacked cooks and the outer pieces get crispy. The cooked meat is then shaved down and served either in a pita or on a plate with rice and other vegetables. Shwarma is a popular street food in Jordan and can be enjoyed from a variety of places.